How did you injure your forefoot? Did you increase your training regimen for that upcoming 5K? Stub your toe on the bedpost? Drop an old couch on your foot? A break in the bones of the foot is one of the most common foot and ankle injuries. Whatever the cause, a fracture in the front of your foot can slow you down.
Every Bone Counts
The front of your foot has 5 metatarsals and 14 phalanges, all designed to move together with every step you take. Even a small stress fracture in one of them can affect how your foot functions. Pain in one part of your foot often causes you to switch the pressure of standing or walking to other parts, which in turn puts unusual pressure on them. Changing the way you walk can have further consequences for your legs, hips and back – a real domino effect.
How Do I Tell If My Foot Is Broken?
Three main symptoms tell you that a bone in your forefoot may be broken: pain, swelling, and bruising. However, these symptoms may also appear with other injuries, so the only way to know for sure is to have an X-ray or bone scan performed. At My Chicago Foot Expert we can diagnose the type and extent of the fracture, and we can recommend the best way to treat it. Some common types of breaks are:
- Stress fractures, which occur more often in the metatarsals, usually happen from overuse. They are small cracks, not complete breaks.
- Stable breaks, where the bone is completely broken, but the ends still line up properly, can be caused kicking or twisting your foot.
- Dislocated breaks, in which the break is severe enough that the ends of the bones have moved out of position, result from trauma like dropping something on your foot or injuring it in an accident.
Treatments Vary According to the Fracture
Every forefoot fracture is different, and each requires specialized treatments. Some minor fractures may only require rest to heal; other major injuries may not heal without surgery. For a simple toe break, we may insert a piece of gauze and tape the toe to its neighbor for stability. We will explain how to change the bandage and adjust it if it is too tight. Healing may take 3 – 4 weeks, but the pain should subside before that.
For a broken bone in the forefoot, we may use a cast, brace, or special shoe to keep the foot stable during healing. Healing may take 6 to 8 weeks, and one or more additional X-rays may be needed during this time to make sure the bones are healing properly.
Surgery for forefoot fractures is rare, but severe breaks may need to be pinned or plated to heal well. This also helps to reduce the risk of arthritis developing at a later date. If surgery is required, the rate of success is high.
Seek Treatment Immediately
If you suspect you have broken your foot or toes, see Dr. Stavros Alexopoulos as soon as possible, and keep the weight off them until you do. You can ice for 20 minutes a few times a day to reduce pain and swelling, and we may recommend an analgesic if the pain is severe. Contact My Chicago Foot Expert by calling (773) 561-8100, or request an appointment online. Our goal is preventing future complications by promoting quick and thorough healing.