The foot is made up of twenty-six bones.
- The talus (ankle) and the calcaneus (heel) make up the hindfoot (back of the foot).
- The cuboid, navicular and three cuneiform bones make up the midfoot. These bones form the arch of the foot and act as a shock absorber.
- There are fourteen bones in the toes (phalanges).
- Sesamoid bones may also be present to improve function of the foot.
Broken bones are also called fractures. The different types of fractures are:
- Open fractures, also called compound fractures, are those where the broken bone comes through the skin. Fractures are also called open or compound where a skin wound extends down to the broken bone.
- Closed fractures are those where the skin over the broken bone remains intact.
- Displaced fractures are when the ends of the broken bone are not lined up straight.
- Comminuted fractures occur when the bone is broken into several pieces.
- Greenstick fractures occur when the bone bends and cracks, but does not break completely.
- Buckle or torus fractures occur when one side of the bone is compressed and causes the other side to bend.
Greenstick and buckle fractures are more common in children because their bones are softer and bend easier than the bones of an adult.
Stress fractures are tiny breaks in a bone due to repetitive movements or pressure, such as running and jumping. These types of fractures are common in the bones of the feet that bear weight. Some other common ways that people break one or more of the bones in their foot include:
- Falling and missteps
- Dropping something on your foot
- Sports injuries
- Major trauma (such as during a car accident)
There are medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, that can increase your risk of a broken bone. A break in one of the bones in your foot may result in a snap or cracking sound followed by:
- Pain that increases with movement
- Difficulty walking or putting weight on your foot
In severe cases, the foot is in an abnormal position (displaced fracture) or the bone breaks through the skin (open fracture).
Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have broken your foot. A broken bone requires prompt evaluation and treatment to make sure the bone is aligned and heals properly. He or she will:
- Take a medical history
- Do a physical exam that focuses on the affected foot
- Possibly order x-rays of your foot
Treatment for a broken foot will depend on the type and location of the break. Depending on the severity of the break, you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation and treatment.
- In some cases, a simple break can be treated with immobilization and ice to help decrease swelling. You may need a brace, special boot or other device to restrict the movement of the broken bone for a few weeks. This will allow the fracture time to heal.
- You will likely be given some medications to decrease pain and swelling. This may be an over-the-counter pain reliever. If you have significant pain, for a day or two you may need a prescription for a stronger pain reliever.
- If a fracture is displaced, your healthcare provider may need to put the bones back into proper alignment (reduction of fracture). This can be painful and may require medication or anesthesia before the reduction is performed.
- A break that is severe, open, displaced or results in a bone being “shattered” may need surgery. This can help put the bones in proper alignment and promote healing. Surgery usually involves using wires, plates, nails or screws to hold the bone in the correct position while it heals.
- Physical therapy may be recommended. This may help reduce the chance of complications and help bring the foot back to its original condition.
- If you are at risk for osteoporosis, tests may be ordered to see if your fracture could be related to osteoporosis.
The costs associated with this care path are for a broken foot treated in an emergency room.
If you decide to go to the emergency room (ER), it may be helpful if you:
- Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations)
- Bring a list of your medications (including over-the-counter)
- Provide details about how you injured your foot
- Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about
Here are some questions to ask your ER healthcare provider:
- What are my treatment options?
- What are my follow-up options? When should that follow-up occur? Do I need to see a surgeon or other specialists? Are there any alternatives?
- Are you recommending any tests? Will the test results change my treatment plan? If not, why do I need the test?
- When might I start to see improvement in my symptoms?
- What symptoms should I report before my next appointment?
After your appointment, you should also understand your treatment plan, possible alternatives, and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects). Get a written copy of the information you were given and ask that a copy be sent to your primary care provider (PCP).