Even though your feet only take up a small portion of your body, they bear your entire body’s weight and are responsible the all of your movement. If you have an active lifestyle, you know how quickly foot pain can keep you sidelined.
If you have a nagging pain in your foot or ankle, you may have suffered a bone fracture. Read on to learn more about these fractures, how to identify them, and what your treatment options are.
Causes of Foot and Ankle Fractures
Because of the number of small bones in the foot and ankle, it’s easy to develop a fracture in that area. As a general rule, fractures in the foot come from being active—running, jumping, kicking, and sudden pivots and twists. But you can also develop one from an impact such as a fall or car accident.
How Fractures Happen in the Foot
- Playing high-impact sports. Sports that put a lot of stress on your body, like football, soccer, and basketball, are known as high impact, and they are a common culprit behind fractures.
- Using improper form when training or exercising. Doing an exercise the right way is more than just about getting the most benefit; it’s about staying healthy. Exercise is beneficial, but you can easily hurt yourself if you’re doing it the wrong way.
- Being too active. If you suddenly exercise or play sports more than you usually do, you might be putting too much strain on your body. If you’ve taken time away or you’re starting a new activity, take time to ease into it.
- Wearing improper shoes. Your shoes provide a tremendous level of protection for your body, and if you’re wearing the wrong shoes, your feet aren’t getting the support they need. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate shoes for the activity you’re doing.
- Being involved in a sudden impact. While most foot stress fractures develop due to physical activity, they can also happen if your foot has a sudden impact, like from a trip and fall or a car accident.
Symptoms of a Foot or Ankle Fracture
When you have a fracture of the bones in your ankle or foot, you’ll notice an immediate sharp pain (unless it’s a minor stress fracture). There will usually be quick swelling involved too, and the area will be tender to the touch. You may also notice that you can’t put any weight on the injured foot, and in the worst cases, see an actual deformity of your foot or ankle’s shape.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to have your foot evaluated by a podiatrist, as foot fractures only worsen with time.
How Ankle and Foot Fractures Are Diagnosed
The first step in diagnosing a potential fracture to the foot will be a physical exam followed by an X-ray. This lets the doctor know if you have a broken bone or a sprain. X-rays will likely be done from multiple angles to give a good look at the whole area. It’s important to know that small stress fractures often won’t show up on an X-ray until they begin to heal, so if you’re visiting your doctor immediately after an injury, this may not be evident at first.
If the X-ray doesn’t give a clear picture of the injury, a CT scan or MRI may be done to give a full scope of the problem.
Common Types of Fractures in the Foot
When it comes to your feet, all breaks aren’t equal. There are several different types of foot fractures, but each one can be painful.
What Bones Can Break in the Foot
- Lateral malleolus fracture. The most common fracture in the ankle is a break of the lateral malleolus bone, or the small bump on the outside of the ankle.
- Bimalleolar fracture. The bimalleolar is the small bump on the inside of the ankle.
- Trimalleolar fracture. As the “tri” part of the name implies, this fracture involves three different parts of the ankle – the medial malleolus, the lateral malleolus, and the lower part of the posterior malleolus.
- Pilon fracture. Also known as a plafond fracture, this is a break of the middle of the lower tibia. In most cases, this results from a fall from a height where someone lands feet first.
Foot Fractures Can Be Treated Without Surgery
Depending on the type of break, there are several different treatment options available. At Shenandoah Podiatry, surgery is always the last option we recommend for any foot condition. But you may be surprised to know that many foot fractures can be treated without surgery.
The biggest thing that determines whether or not surgery will be required is if your fracture is displaced or nondisplaced. In a displaced fracture, the bones are not properly aligned, and will need to be placed back in alignment before any other treatment happens—usually by surgery. If the bones are not out of place or only slightly out of place, non-surgical treatment may work.
If surgery isn’t being used, treatment will involve a splint, cast, or boot to keep the foot immobile while the bone heals.
For fractures that need surgery, a podiatrist will attach pins or plates to the broken bones to make sure they heal in the proper alignment. If a broken bone heals out of alignment, arthritis can occur down the road.
Shenandoah Podiatry Can Treat Your Foot Fracture
If you think you have a fracture in your foot, don’t put off treatment. The thought of foot surgery can be intimidating, but many foot fractures can be treated through non-surgical means.
At Shenandoah Podiatry, we know a doctor visit can seem scary. That’s why we work hard to provide an environment where you’re at ease as soon as you walk through our doors. If you’re ready to start the road to renewed foot health, give our office a call at 540-904-1458 to set up your appointment. You can also use our online contact form and we’ll be in contact as soon as we can.