Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- Broken foot definition and facts
- How many bones are in the foot?
- What are the causes of a broken foot?
- What are the signs and symptoms of a broken foot?
- What are the signs and symptoms of a broken foot in an infant or toddler?
- When should I call the doctor for foot pain?
- How can I tell if I have a broken bone in my foot?
- What can you do for a broken foot (treatment)?
- What is the healing and recovery time for a broken foot?
- What are the complications of a broken foot?
- Can a broken foot be prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Broken foot definition and facts
- The bones in the foot may be broken in many ways including direct blows, crush injuries, falls and overuse or stress.
- Signs and symptoms of a broken foot may include pain, limping, swelling, bruising, and refusal to bear weight on the affected foot.
- Initial treatment may include RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Rest may include the use of crutches to limit weight bearing.
- X-rays often help make the diagnosis but bone scan or computerized tomography (CT scan) may be needed to help visualize the injury.
- Treatment of foot fractures depend upon which bone is broken but many fractures are treated with a compression dressing, a stiff- soled shoe, boot, and weight bearing as tolerated.
- Some foot fractures require surgery to repair the damage.
- Complications of foot fractures include non-union at the fracture site, arthritis if a joint is involved, and infection if the skin is broken.
- Healing and recovery time for a broken foot depends upon the type of fracture and the bone(s) involved.
How many bones are in the foot (pictures)?
The foot is designed to withstand the considerable forces placed on it by walking, running, and jumping. There are 26 bones of the foot, connected by joints and supported by thickened ligaments to absorb the impact of movement. As well, the joints of the foot are acted upon by muscles and tendons that allow flexing and extending to permit walking and running to occur.
The bony anatomy can be described as:
- The hindfoot consists of the talus that forms the base of the ankle joint where it meets the tibia (shin bone) and the calcaneous or heel bone.
- Ligaments from both the talus and the heel bone span the ankle joint and attach to the tibia and fibula (the other shin bone) to provide stability.
- The midfoot consists of the navicular, the cuboid, and the three cuneiform bones. The midfoot is where inversion and supination of the foot occurs. These motions allow the sole of the foot to turn inwards and upwards.
- The five metatarsal bones are connected to each toe.
- The toe bones are called phalanges (single = phalanx) with the great toe having two and the other four toes having three each. These bones are named based upon their relationship to the body: proximal, middle and distal. Proximal means closest to the center of the body while distal is furthest from the center. The toenails are located over the digital phalanges.
- The arch of the foot is maintained by the plantar fascia, a thick fibrous band of tissue that runs from the calcaneus to the metatarsal, preventing the bones of the foot from flattening.
- There are places in the foot where two bones meet to form a joint. Each joint has its own set of structures that help maintain stability.
- Injuries to the foot include fractures of the bone, sprains of the ligaments that stabilize the joints, and strains of the muscles and tendons that move the foot. Joints can also become inflamed (arthritis). Arthritis can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).
What are the causes of a broken foot?
A fracture, break, and crack all mean the same thing when it comes to a bone injury: the integrity of the bone has been damaged. The cause of injury may be obvious, such as jumping from a height or a heavy object falling and landing on the foot, or it may develop gradually over time, such as the result of the constant stress of walking or running.
- Foot fractures account for 10% of all the broken bones in the body, and the mechanism of injury usually can give a clue as to what bone might be injured.
- Fractures of the calcaneus (heel bone) usually occur when a person jumps or falls from a height, landing directly on their feet. The force of the landing may also be transmitted up the body to cause fractures of the ankle, knee, hip, and lumbar spine.
- Injuries to the midfoot, the metatarsals, and phalanges often are caused by a direct blow sustained when a kick goes awry or from a crush injury when a heavy object is dropped on the foot.
- Twisting injuries can cause bones to break. For example, fractures of the base of the fifth metatarsal occur when the ankle rolls inward and a fragment of the bone is pulled off (avulsed) by the peroneus tendon.
- The most common causes of foot injuries include falls; crush injuries (including impacts from a heavy object or an automobile accident) missed steps, and stress/overuse injuries.
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