Foot Conditions A-Z
A fracture is a break of any size in a bone. There are different degrees and types of fractures. A displaced bone fracture occurs when the broken ends of a fracture move away from one another and a significant gap develops between them.
A non-displaced fracture (also called a “hairline” or “stress” fracture) occurs when a bone develops a crack or breaks, but the broken ends don’t move apart.
A pathological fracture occurs when a bone that has been weakened by a disease such as cancer, osteoporosis or other systemic issue develops a fracture. This type of fracture can occur without a high level of force or trauma, often in day-to-day activities.
A compound or open fracture occurs when a broken bone protrudes through the skin and creates an open wound. Such fractures are serious and require immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of a fracture may include the following:
- Pain in the area of the fracture, especially in response to pressure - in the feet the most common areas are the forefoot / toes, the heel and the ankles.
- Swelling that may or may not be accompanied by bruising or discoloration due to injury to the blood vessels in the area of the fracture.
- Inability to walk or to move the broken appendage.
- Instability, especially if the fracture is near a joint (fractures near a joint may also cause the joint to become dislocated).
Twisting or overextending the foot and/or ankle is a common cause of fractures. When the foot “turns over,” a sprain may occur simultaneously with a fracture. This happens fairly frequently in court sports, especially basketball and tennis, as well as in turf sports such as soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey.
Other common causes of fractures include the following:
- Walking and running on uneven surfaces.
- Any movement that suddenly places the legs or feet in an unnatural position.
- Repetitive stress to bones in the feet and ankles.
- Systemic issues--osteoporosis, chemotherapy to treat cancer--that weaken bones, making them vulnerable to fracture.
Prevention and Treatment
You can prevent fractures in the feet and legs by ensuring that the surfaces you walk or run on are as even as possible. If you’re on an uneven surface, pay attention to the path and move at a pace that allows you to keep an eye on changes in the terrain.
When playing sports, proper shoes with non-slip outsoles that provide some measure of ankle support are advisable. To ensure that feet are optimally protected, IPFH suggests that you wear only properly selected and fitted, as part of an integrated approach, padded socks with the shoes and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional. Peer-reviewed, published studies have shown that wearing clinically tested padded socks can help protect against injuries to the skin/soft tissue of the foot. Ensure that they are properly selected and fitted as part of an integrated approach.
Avoid aggressive sports and activities for which you have not trained properly. Also avoid high-heeled shoes, which may affect stability and increase vulnerability to falls and twisting of the ankle.
Treatment for fractures typically includes immobilization of the injured area for four to six weeks, depending on the type and severity of the fracture. During that period, you will wear a cast, splint or brace to reduce pressure on the limb. In some cases, a walking cast or healing boot may be appropriate.
If you suspect you have fractured a bone, see your doctor. A serious fracture or dislocation of a joint or limb and/or bone protruding from the skin represent an emergency and should be dealt with immediately. If you have recurrent or sharp pain in the feet, ankles or legs, see your doctor in case the pain is being produced by a fracture you’re not aware of.
Always talk to your doctor if you have soreness, pain, redness, swelling or other indications of problems in any area of your feet that persist for more than a few days.