Accidents happen. A quick fall or silly trip and even the best of us can be out of commission with foot or ankle discomfort. An ankle injury occurs when the ankle joint is twisted too far out of its normal position. Most ankle injuries occur either during sports activities or while walking on an uneven surface that forces the foot and ankle into an unnatural position.
• Tripping or falling
• Landing awkwardly after a jump
• Walking or running on uneven surfaces
• A sudden impact such as a car crash
• Twisting or rotating the ankle
• Rolling the ankle
After an accident, you may wonder if you have broken any bones. When you experience a break in the foot or ankle, it is also known as a “fracture”. It can involve one or more bones and causes a varying degree of pain and swelling based on the depth of the break and its location. A fracture may, or may not, force you to stop walking. If the fracture is not well supported, or if it forces your ankle out of place, you will probably have to restrict putting weight on the break until it heals - which may take a few months.
Simply put, the more bones that are broken, the more unstable the foot and ankle become. An accident that causes fractures is usually damaging enough to harm the ligaments as well. When those ligaments are not able to support the foot and ankle, it’s time to take the weight off with crutches or some other type of mobility device.
Fractures affect people of all ages. During the past 30 to 40 years, doctors have noted an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles, due in part to an active, older population of "baby boomers." New and improved technology enables us to care and support these overused bones in a manner that provides a better quality of life after severe fractures.
Fractures can occur in any part of the foot and ankle:
• Ankle Fractures
• Heel Fractures
• Lisfranc (Midfoot) Fracture
• Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle
• Talus Fractures
• Toe and Forefoot Fractures
A visual inspection will give the doctor much of the information that she needs to assess the fracture, but knowing the specific details will help determine the course of treatment. It helps the doctor to have an understanding your accident, what you were doing at the time, and if there was any injury to the foot. X-rays will show most fractures, although a bone scan may occasionally be needed to identify stress fractures. Usually, we can realign the bone without surgery, although in severe fractures, pins or screws may be required to hold the bones in place while they heal.
The most common signs of a foot fracture are pain, swelling, and bruising. If you have a broken toe, you may be able to walk, but this usually aggravates the pain. If the pain, swelling, and discoloration continues for more than two or three days, or if pain interferes with walking it is time to seek medical intervention. If you delay getting treatment, you could develop persistent foot pain and arthritis. You could also change the way you walk (your gait), which could lead to other foot and ankle problems down the road. Overcompensating your weight to prevent pain when you walk can also lead to hip, back and neck pain.
If you think that you have a broken bone in your ankle, foot, or toe, it’s time to seek medical attention. While you wait for your appointment, keep your weight off the leg and apply ice to reduce swelling. Use an ice pack, or wrap ice in a towel so it does not come into direct contact with the skin. Apply the ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time. You can take aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve the pain. Wear a wider shoe with a stiff sole to accommodate the swelling and to support the foot.
Rest is the primary treatment for stress fractures in the foot. Stay away from the activity that triggered the injury, or any activity that causes pain at the fracture site, for three to four weeks. Gradually, you will be able to return to activity.
Sometimes fractured bones may need extra support to encourage healing. If you have a broken toe, the doctor will "buddy-tape" the broken toe to an adjacent toe, with a gauze pad between the toes to absorb moisture. Dr. Smith will give you instruction on how to replace the tape and pad. Midfoot and ankle fractures may require you to wear a short-leg walking cast, a brace, or a rigid, flat-bottom shoe or “boot”. As symptoms subside, you can put some weight on the leg. Stop if the pain returns.
Surgery is rarely required to treat fractures in the toes or forefoot. However, when it is necessary, it has a high degree of success.
Dr. Sheryl Smith
9800 Broadway Extension,
Oklahoma City, OK 73114
OKFootMD Dr. Sheryl Smith