Millions of people suffer from fractures, or broken bones, each year in the US. People break their bones in number of different ways: Broken bones result from auto injuries, sports injuries, falls, and repetitive use, like running. Some people suffer broken bones as the result of diseases, such as osteoporosis, which causes bones to weaken due to degeneration.
No matter the cause, you should see a medical professional immediately after you fracture a bone. If you break a bone in your toe, foot, or ankle, you might need to see a podiatrist with expertise in those areas. Dr. John A. Scheffel at Scheffel Foot Center can recommend the best treatment plan for fractures in the lower leg and foot.
Symptoms of a bone fracture
When you break your foot, toe, or ankle, you may experience:
- Decreased range of motion
- Inability to walk
- Numbness in toes and foot
- Severe pain
- Tenderness to touch
Fractures can be closed (no broken skin), open (broken skin), displaced (there’s a gap between the two ends of the bone), partial, or complete. Fortunately, bone healing is a natural process that just requires some intervention from a professional, who ensures your bones heal as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Here are three of the most common types of fractures and how to treat them.
A stress fracture is often referred to as a “hairline” fracture, because they’re so small and often hard to detect, even with x-rays. Many people continue their regular day-to-day schedules with a stress fracture because the pain isn’t unbearable like it is with other fractures.
For instance, a hairline fracture in your foot may cause difficulty walking, but not so much so that it alerts you to see Dr. Scheffel. However, he may recommend the following treatment methods for stress fractures:
- Stop the activity or activities that cause pain.
- Ice the injured area.
- Rest for one to six weeks, or until you can engage in low-impact activities, such as walking, without pain.
- Elevate your foot when lying down.
- Take nonsteroidal pain medications, such as Ibuprofen.
- Use protective footwear and/or crutches.
- Wear a removable brace or compression garment.
“Partial fracture” means that you broke your bone, but not all the way through. Rather, imagine a partial fracture as a crack in your bone. Partial fractures can be transverse (horizontal), oblique (angled), comminuted (shattered), or lengthwise.
Treatment varies according to which bone is broken and in what way, but here’s what you might expect for a partial fracture in your ankle or foot:
- A splint or hard cast
- Follow-up appointments to ensure your foot is healing
Dr. Scheffel also provides at-home instructions for partial fractures, which may include guidelines like keeping your foot elevated while resting, and whether or not you should bear any weight on your injured foot.
Like partial fractures, complete fractures occur in a number of different patterns. However, a complete fracture is one that breaks all the way through the bone. Treatment depends on which bones are fractured (you have 26 bones in your foot!), but treatment for complete fractures is usually similar to that of partial fractures.
If your complete fracture is open (skin is broken), Dr. Scheffel will thoroughly clean and disinfect your wound to reduce risk of infection. If your complete fracture is particularly severe, you may need surgery.
Examination and treatment
Dr. Scheffel will carefully examine your body to assess your overall condition, as well as the severity of your injury. He’ll ask you how the injury occurred and together you will go over your symptoms and medical history.
Most of the time, Dr. Scheffel uses x-rays to diagnose broken bones. Sometimes, however, he may order a different type of scan. If Dr. Scheffel confirms your bone is fractured, he recommends treatment based on the type and severity of fracture. Treatment for broken bones usually includes rest, medications to control swelling and pain, a cast or splint, and crutches.
If you’re experiencing any of the fracture symptoms above, but aren’t sure if you have a fracture, visit Dr. Scheffel as soon as possible. Call Scheffel Foot Center or request an appointment online.