There are 26 bones in the foot, and just as many ways to break them. Toe bones can break if you kick something, heel bones if you land hard on them, and all the others in between if they are subjected to trauma. Athletes seem to have an uncommon number of breaks, because they put much more stress on the bones than a sedentary person does. They aren’t the only ones, though. Dancers do a fair amount of jumping and twisting, workers can drop heavy tools or totes on their feet, older people can trip or fall and land awkwardly, and kids? You know all the ways they can find to break something!
Anatomy of a Break
The metatarsals are the long bones in the front of your foot just behind your toes. They are crucial in pushing off and landing, part of a complex structure of bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments and nerves that propels your every step. A metatarsal fracture is usually caused instantly by some sort of trauma. Athletes can step on each other’s feet a lot during a game, and because there is little padding on the top of your feet, the bones are vulnerable to that stress. Sometimes just the repetitive landing on the foot – such as with running – can weaken the bones. Over time, they may develop tiny cracks or fissures called stress fractures. One type is a small break in the second metatarsal, called a march fracture (because soldiers who marched too much got them – and still do). Stress fractures can become worse over time and result in a full break.
A break in the metatarsal bones is usually very painful, and you probably won’t be able to put weight on your foot. You may notice swelling, or the skin may look bruised and red. Many times the symptoms for a sprain and a fracture are similar, so it is always best to have any injury checked out at Country Foot Care to determine how serious it is. Get help immediately if your foot is cold, blue or numb, if it is shaped wrong or pointing the wrong way, or if there is any break in the skin which could put you at risk for infection.
Metatarsal Fractures Usually Heal Well
Quick action is helpful in promoting full healing. Keep the weight off your feet until the break can be examined. Until one of our physicians evaluates you, we may recommend home care for mild breaks, such as the Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation treatment method for reducing pain and swelling. If the first metatarsal is broken (the one attached to your big toe) you may need surgery, a cast and crutches to use for several weeks. The middle three metatarsals usually heal well by using a rigid soled shoe to keep them stable and limiting the weight placed on them. The fifth metatarsal may also heal well with these treatments unless it has a more complicated Jones fracture, which needs special treatment and no weight bearing at all in order to heal properly. Severe breaks where the bones are misaligned or have broken the skin will need surgery to heal properly. Usually you can begin activity again after 6 – 8 weeks, but be sure to consult with our podiatrists for guidelines that will not jeopardize your full healing.
At Country Foot Care we provide state-of-the-art treatment methods with an old-fashioned caring attitude. Visit one of our boutique-style offices for all your foot care needs. Call 516-741-FEET (3338) to schedule an appointment today. We want to help your feet stay healthy and provide you with many years of pain-free activity!