A fracture is a break in the bone, as opposed to a soft tissue injury such as a sprain or strain. A stress fracture is a tiny bone break caused by overuse, and often developing over time rather than suddenly.
Injuries are the most common causes of foot and ankle fractures, especially during sports like basketball and football. Trip and fall accidents may cause a fracture as can a vehicle or bicycle accident.
A fractured foot or ankle will cause pain, bruising and swelling. It will be difficult to walk on the injured foot or ankle.
If you suspect that you have broken a bone, use R.I.C.E. treatment at home before you can get to medical treatment:
- Rest the foot and leg.
- Ice the area as quickly as possible, and reapply every 3 or 4 hours for 15-20 minutes each time.
- Use an elastic bandage to apply compression to minimize swelling.
- Elevate the leg on pillows, preferably higher than your heart.
Ibuprofen can help relieve pain and swelling.
For a serious break, or if your pain and swelling persists after a day or two and you still have difficulty walking, get to your foot doctor or emergency room right away.
Your podiatrist will assess your injury with imaging tests such as an X-ray. An ultrasound or MRI can help diagnose stress fractures as well as soft tissue injuries.
Treatment depends on your injury. A serious break may require metal plates and screws to line up the bone properly.
Stress fractures need rest and immobilization with a special boot or a cast and crutches.