Broken Foot Bone - Healing Time and Treatment
Causes of foot bone injury
When it comes to bone injuries, a crack, fracture and break all mean the same thing: the bone's integrity has been damaged. The cause of a broken foot bone may seem obvious, such as a heavy object falling and landing on the foot or falling from a height. An injury can also develop gradually over time, such as the result of the constant stress of running or walking.
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- Fractures of the foot make up ten percent of all broken bones in the body, and the nature of the injury can provide a clue as to what bone might be broken.
- The most common causes of foot fractures include falls, missed steps, crush injuries - such as an automobile accident or impact from a heavy object - and overuse/stress injuries.
- Injuries to the phalanges, metatarsals and mid-foot are usually caused by sustaining a direct blow when a kick goes wrong or from a crush injury when a heavy object falls and lands on the foot.
- An injury to the calcaneus typically occurs when a person falls or jumps from a height, landing directly on his/her feet. The impact of landing may also be transmitted up the body resulting in fractures of the lumbar spine, hip, knee and ankle.
Treatment of the broken foot bone
First aid in the home may include RICE - rest, ice, elevation and compression - and weight bearing as tolerated. If a choice is made to seek medical care, this treatment may still be administered when the patient is discharged from the hospital and returns home.
The treatment of the broken foot will depend on what bone is fractured, the nature of the injury, the underlying medical condition of the injured person and whether it is an open fracture where the skin is broken, or a closed fracture where the skin is intact.
Fractured toes are typically treated symptomatically, whereby the injured toe is "buddy taped" to an adjacent normal. It is a good idea to place absorbent material, such as cotton balls, between the toes to prevent dampness and skin injury. Crutches and a stiff-soled shoe may be needed to help with walking. Healing typically takes four to six weeks.
A fracture of the great toe that results in displacement may require surgery to allow for better healing. A podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon may opt for this. However, the patient makes the decision electively a few days after the injury.
Open fractures of the toe typically need good wound cleansing to avoid infection. At the same time the medical professional will usually explore the injury, looking for foreign objects and examining the condition of deep structures, such as tendons, looking for lacerations.
Metatarsal fractures usually heal nicely with conservative care, meaning the broken foot bone does not require surgery. The foot is wrapped for comfort to minimize swelling and placed in a Reece shoe or orthopedic post-op.
First metatarsal fractures that are aligned nicely can be treated with a post-op shoe as well as avoidance of weight bearing. In the event that the fracture is displaced - meaning the bone fragments to not align - the doctor may consider performing and operation to pin or plate the structure. Second, third, and fourth metatarsal fractures usually heal nicely with an ace wrap for support and weight bearing as tolerated. Stress fractures typically involve the second and third metatarsals.
Immobilization of a fractured foot will help control the pain. Ibruprofen (Advil, Motrin) can decrease inflammation in the foot and help control the pain. If needed, the doctor may prescribe narcotic pain medication. Rest, ice and elevation can assist in limiting the swelling and decreasing the pain.