You don’t plan on breaking your foot. No one wakes up and decides it’s a good day for a foot fracture. It’s an accident. It’s unplanned.
A foot fracture can happen anytime. It can be while you’re kicking a ball with your kids. You could step into an unseen hole in the parking lot. You could twist your ankle while out dancing. You can kick the end table getting up in the middle of the night. Or you simply could have stepped off a curb the wrong way.
It’s an accident, but its serious.
You see, your foot is a marvel of engineering. Each foot has 26 small bones that have to support you. No matter how much you weigh. No matter how much running or jumping you’re doing. Yoga or Zumba. It doesn’t matter, your feet will be there for you.
But if you twist the wrong way. If the pressure gets too much for the bone to bear. Then you risk a broken foot.
I know what you’re thinking…it’s usually just a sprain. No sense wasting your time or money getting it checked out. But it is worthwhile. If you don’t treat a fracture it can shift and worsen. That will make the recovery more difficult. And if you ignore it altogether, it can lead to arthritis forming and you can have constant pain in that area. Forever.
Not to mention that a sprain is serious too. It’s worth the simple x-ray to rule out the fracture.
Common Types of Foot Fractures
You may think that there’s nothing you can do for a broken toe. But that is not the case at all. The most common cause of a broken toe is kicking a piece of furniture while you’re walking across the room barefoot. If this hasn’t happened to you, you’re lucky. It’s so painful, you see stars!
I need to make sure that the toe is okay. A simple digital x-ray done in the office will allow me to see if the toe is fractured and if it’s in good position. If it is, great! I’ll teach you how to splint the toe and it will heal. If it’s not in good position, then I may need to manipulate the toe to get it sitting better. This way it will heal properly.
By the way, this only applies for a smaller toe. If you break your big toe, it needs to be treated. There’s so much pressure that goes through your great toe. You don’t want it to heal poorly and develop arthritis. This can lead to ongoing pain.
A metatarsal fracture often happens with a fall or twist. The bone isn’t meant to move that way and the bone breaks. You may even hear a crack when it happens! This is very painful and almost instantly causes swelling and bruising to occur. You’ll know that you did something bad to your foot.
In the office, we’ll take a digital x-ray to see the fracture. If the bone is broken but in good position, then I’ll recommend that it be immobilized, usually in a cast boot. You’ll be in the boot for about 8 weeks. You also may need to use crutches or a knee scooter to get around.
Sometimes the bone is in poor position, meaning it’s displaced and won’t heal properly. In that case, you might need me to fix the fracture with surgery.
You constantly have stress on the bones of your feet. In fact, just walking provides repetitive stress to the bones of the feet. Sometimes that stress overwhelms your bone and it weakens. This leads to a hairline fracture in the bone called a stress fracture.
A stress fracture is a break in the foot bone that is not displaced. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need treatment. If you don’t treat a stress fracture, the pain will continue. It will heal more slowly, which will keep you away from activities you love. It also may worsen. The break in the bone will displace and your recovery will lengthen. You may even need surgery to fix it at that point. This is why it’s important to get your stress fracture treated early.
Mythbuster: Can You Walk on a Broken Foot?
So many people tell me that they didn’t think their foot was broken because they were able to walk on it. Not being able to walk on a broken foot is an urban legend that has lasted for many years.
The truth is that you are able to walk on a broken foot. Some people walk on a broken foot for days or weeks before they come in to get it checked. And they always are utterly surprised that the foot is broken because they’ve been walking on it.
While it hurts to walk on a broken foot, it is definitely possible to do so. Even run on one. So, don’t use that as your litmus test about whether your foot is broken. An x-ray is much better at determining if your foot is broken or not.
Treatment For a Broken Foot
Buddy Splint for a Broken Toe
A broken toe needs to be made more stable to allow it to heal properly. Unlike treatments for other fractures, I don’t usually use a fracture boot for a broken toe. A buddy splint is a simple and effective way to splint a broken toe.
A buddy splint secures the broken toe to a healthy toe next to it. I like you to use lamb’s wool to cushion between the toes. You then use a non-stick wrap to secure the toes together. You need to make sure it’s not too tight. I’ll put one on in the office to show you exactly how to do it.
Immobilization with a Fracture Boot to Treat a Broken Foot
When a foot fracture is in good position, I treat it with immobilization. Instead of traditional casts, I like to use a fracture boot to treat a broken foot. This is more comfortable, especially in the Houston heat. You can remove it when you’re sleeping and bathing. But it still provides the protection you need to keep the broken foot bone immobilized.
I keep a good supply of fracture boots in the office, so you usually won’t have to go anywhere else. If the fracture appears stable on x-ray, I may let you walk on the foot in the fracture boot. If not, you’ll have to keep the broken foot non-weightbearing.
Using Crutches or a Scooter for a Broken Foot
If the foot fracture is unstable, I’ll recommend that you keep your weight off of it. This is even true if you are wearing a fracture boot to immobilize the foot. Until recently, crutches were the best way to offload the broken foot. Now a better choice is to use a scooter for a broken foot.
A scooter for a broken foot is used by resting your knee on the padded platform. You then push with your healthy foot while your other leg rolls along. It is easy to use. It is a lot more comfortable than using crutches. I recommend using a scooter for a foot fracture and you’ll be much happier using one.
Surgery to Repair a Broken Foot
If the fractured bone is not in good position, it may need to be corrected with surgery. Surgery to fix a broken bone is done outpatient in a surgery center. During the procedure, I reposition the broken ends of the bone and secure it with a metal plate and screws. Don’t worry, it won’t make you buzz in metal detectors!
Don’t let the idea of surgery scare you from coming in to get your foot fracture checked. Knowledge is power! Knowing what you’re dealing with will let you be in control of your recovery. In this case, short-term inconvenience will prevent long-term pain.
Don’t Wait to Get Your Foot Fracture Treated
The best time to see if you have a broken foot is NOW! You want to be evaluated and treated before the fracture begins to heal in a poor position. Give the office a call and let us know that you think you broke your foot and we’ll get you in for an immediate evaluation. I’ll take a digital x-ray and we can look together to see if your foot is broken. If it is, we’ll discuss the treatment options.