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Definition

What is a broken foot?

You may have a broken (also called fractured) foot after an accident or fall. This common injury requires prompt medical attention and can be serious. The severity of a broken foot can vary, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you think your foot is broken. They can develop a treatment plan to help you recover.

How common is a broken foot?

Broken bones (also called fractures) in the foot are very common. In fact, about 1 out of every 10 broken bones occurs in the foot.  Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of a broken foot?

The common symptoms of a broken foot are:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Problems walking or putting weight on the foot
  • Deformity, such as a broken bone sticking out of the skin or the foot facing the wrong way

Your symptoms can vary, but pain, bruising, and swelling tend to be common.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes a broken foot?

Bones usually break when something happens to crush, bend, twist, or stretch the bone.

  • Toes are often broken when you accidentally kick something hard.
  • Heels are often broken when you fall from a height and land on your feet.
  • Other bones in the foot sometimes break when you twist or sprain an ankle.

Most bones break suddenly because of an accident. Occasionally, small cracks can form in bones over a longer period of time from repeated stress on the bones. These are called stress fractures. They occur most commonly in soldiers hiking in full gear or in athletes, such as dancers, runners, and gymnasts.

Broken bones are more common in children than in adults.

  • In adults, bones are stronger than ligaments (which connect bones to other bones) and tendons (which connect bones to muscles). But in children, ligaments and tendons are relatively stronger than bone or cartilage. As a result, injuries that may only cause a sprain in an adult may cause a broken bone in a child. However, a child’s forefoot is generally flexible and very resilient to injuries of any kind.
  • When metatarsal or phalangeal fractures do occur, they may be difficult to recognize, because many parts of a growing child’s bone do not show up well on X-rays. For this reason, it is sometimes helpful to get X-rays of the child’s other, uninjured foot to compare to the hurt foot.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a broken foot?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is a broken foot diagnosed?

The doctor will ask you about the injury and examine you. X-rays are often useful in diagnosing broken bones in the foot, but sometimes they are not needed.

Injured toes are usually treated in the same way whether they are broken or just bruised, so X-rays are often optional for these injuries.

Sometimes a doctor’s examination is all that is needed to be certain bones in the midfoot are not broken. Doctors may use the “Ottawa foot rules” to decide if an X-ray is needed. An X-ray is required only if there is any pain in the malleolar “mid foot” zone AND any one of the following symptoms is present:

  • Pain when the doctor pushes over the base of the fifth metatarsal bone
  • Pain when the doctor pushes over the navicular bone
  • Inability to take 4 steps, both immediately after injury and at the examination

Other ways of taking pictures of the bones of the foot (such as a bone scan, CT, MRI, or ultrasound) can be performed to look for unusual or hidden injuries, but they are rarely needed. These tests generally are not obtained while in the emergency department and usually are ordered only after consultation with an orthopedist or foot surgeon.

How is a broken foot treated?

The type of treatment you receive is based on the severity and location of the fracture. You may need rest and medications for pain relief. It’s also common to have a cast, brace, or boot for the broken foot. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Learn how to apply immediate first aid for a broken bone.

Common treatments for a broken foot include:

  • Over-the-counter medications for pain relief
  • Rest
  • Wearing a cast, splint, brace, boot, or special shoe
  • Taking weight off of the broken foot
  • Using crutches or a wheelchair
  • Manipulation of the bones to put them back in place
  • Surgery to insert pins, screws, rods, or plates

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a broken foot?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent a broken foot:

  • Construction workers and others at risk for foot injuries should always wear steel-toed protective boots.
  • Sports always should be performed with well-fitting supportive athletic shoes.
  • When riding in a car, do not allow passengers to dangle feet out the window or place feet up on the dashboard.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when riding in a car.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 25, 2017 | Last Modified: October 25, 2017

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