If you suffer from severe pain due to a fracture, please Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists as soon as possible.
What is a Metatarsal Fracture?
Doctors define a metatarsal fracture as a thin, hairline crack in one of the metatarsal bones that extend from the toes into the foot. This type of fracture usually occurs from repeated stress on the foot. It may also occur when a patient jumps or twists their foot or ankle the wrong way. This fracture often occurs among dancers due to jumping, balancing and turning on one foot. Patients with conditions such as Osteoporosis have a higher risk of all types of bone fracture, due to decreased bone density.
What are the Symptoms of a Metatarsal Fracture?
The most common symptoms of stress fractures in the metatarsals involve pain. Pain caused by a fracture tends to develop slowly and gets worse during physical activities. Symptoms of a foot fracture may include:
- Pain that lessens when resting
- Pain that continually gets worse when performing daily activities
- Swelling of the foot
- The site of the fracture may feel tender to touch
- The area may appear bruised
Additional Complications of Metatarsal Fractures
In the case of a severely broken foot, other conditions can arise and cause further symptoms and complications, such as:
- Arthritis. A fracture that extends into a joint space can lead to osteoarthritis down the road, even long after the fracture itself heals. If a foot you once fractured begins to hurt again years later, contact your foot and ankle specialist for an evaluation.
- Osteomyelitis. If the fractured bone has broken through the skin, bacteria can enter the exposed bone and lead to Osteomyelitis, otherwise known as a bone infection.
- Surrounding tissue damage. When severe enough, broken bones in the foot can jab adjacent nerve tissue or veins, sometimes leading to real damage. Patients should immediately talk to their physician if they develop numbness, tingling or circulation issues following a foot fracture, as tissues deprived of blood for too long can die.
Who is At Risk of a Metatarsal Fracture?
Individuals will have a higher likelihood of fracturing their feet if they fall into one or more of the following categories:
- People who play high-impact sports. Foot fractures most often result from taking the stress, impacts and injuries that often occur while playing sports such as basketball, football, and soccer.
- People Using improper sports equipment. Wearing ill-fitting shoes or foot related equipment such as skis or skates can lead to a higher risk of stress fractures and accidents. Foot fractures can also occur from failing to properly warm up or from practicing poor technique.
- People who have recently increased their activity levels. Individuals who make a sudden large increase in physical activity can risk fracturing the bones of the foot that have not received recent use.
- People working physically demanding jobs. Jobs that demand physical labor and heavy machinery can put patients at risk of workplace injuries or accidents that can cause fractured feet.
- People suffering from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken faster than they would otherwise and heavily increases the risk of all fractures.
Treatment for a Foot Fracture
- Reduction. If the bone has broken in such a way that the two ends of the fracture now point in different directions, your foot and ankle specialist may need to physically push the fractured ends back into their natural alignment, a process known as a reduction.
- Immobilization. To ensure that the bone heals properly, the physician must immobilize the bone so that the fracture has time to knit back together without interruption. Most of the time this will require wearing a cast, although some minor fractures will only require a removable brace wrapping in gauze.
- Surgery. For severe fractures, orthopedic surgeons may need to perform surgery to reconstruct the bone. They may require hardware such as pins, or screws to hold the bones in place while healing. Depending on the case, the surgeon may or may not remove the hardware once the fracture has healed.