A foot fracture, or broken foot, refers to a break in any one of the 26 small bones in your feet. Minor foot fractures involve a tiny crack in the bone, while more serious breaks extend through the bone and can pierce the skin, requiring surgery.
Since the feet are very vulnerable to slipping, twisting, and other types of injury, foot fractures are extremely common. About 10 percent of all broken bones occur in the feet.
Causes of foot fracture
Foot fractures are caused by trauma to the bone. Most fractures occur following an accident or injury, but occasionally, small cracks form in the bone from overuse; these are known as stress fractures.
Common causes of a broken foot include:
Missteps and severe twists.
Motor vehicle accidents.
Overuse, including overtraining.
Slips and falls.
Something heavy dropped on the foot.
Foot fracture symptoms
Foot fractures are not always easy to recognize. Symptoms vary depending on the location and extent of the break in the bone. Not all foot fractures are sudden and produce immediate pain.
Symptoms of a broken foot include:
A protrusion near the fracture.
Bruising and swelling.
Inability to walk or place weight on the foot.
Sharp, severe pain.
Tenderness at the surface of the bone.
At times, you might mistake a fracture for a sprain; many times an x-ray will be the only way to determine if you are suffering from a bad sprain or a broken foot. Sharp pain on the top and side of the foot is not normal. If you feel pain on the outside of your foot, you should see a physician as soon as possible.
Treatment of foot fracture
Course of treatment for fractures depends on the severity of the broken bone. Fractures can be treated by either immobilizing your foot (to allow the bone to heal on its own) or putting the bone back into proper position with surgery or a process called reduction.
Minor fractures can heal without surgery. Immobilizing your foot with a brace or cast allows the bone to fuse together over time. In some cases, you may only need crutches and a splint to protect the fracture.
If the fractured bone is displaced, a doctor can manipulate the pieces back into the proper position. This is known as reduction. Typically you would be prescribed a muscle relaxant or sedative prior to the reduction to minimize discomfort.
Severe fractures often require surgery. Your doctor can use a variety of tools, including pins and screws, to stabilize the position of bones while healing takes place. Following surgery a cast or splint is placed on your foot. You will need crutches to walk.
Delaying treatment of a broken foot could cause additional injury. If you are experiencing severe pain in your foot, visit your doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.