Can’t Catch a Break?
Accidents happen. But when you seriously injure yourself below the knee, you can’t skimp on seeking quality care. Any sprain or fracture in this area requires help from licensed foot care doctors— and quickly! Don’t toe the line when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, our trusted professionals are here to help.
Sprains and fractures can cause pain, swelling, and bruising. It may also be difficult to put weight on the injury. In most cases, you can’t tell what’s going on inside your body unless you look, so the best way to determine if your injury is a break or a sprain is to be examined by an expert, including through X-rays. While breaks, fractures and sprains happen in a variety of ways and affect different areas of your foot, there are successful treatment plan options, no matter the injury type.
The terms “break” and “fracture” are both used to describe when a bone has been shattered, changing the shape of the bone. “Fracture” is just a bit fancier (and less horror film sounding) and, therefore, is the common term used by professionals.
Common Podiatry Fractures
If the break happens below the knee, this is referred to as a podiatry fracture. There are several different types of common podiatry fractures that are categorized by three different areas of the foot: ankle fractures, toe fractures, and foot fractures.
An ankle fracture is a traumatic break that happens when extreme pressure forces the ankle to twist abnormally and then break. A broken ankle means at least one of the three bones in your ankle has fractured.
If you feel any pain in your ankle at all after an accident, be careful! If just one bone in your ankle is broken, you may think you “just” have a sprain. But putting pressure on your ankle could move any broken bones around, potentially making the treatment process longer and more complex. Stay off your ankle and seek your nearest foot doctor immediately.
A toe fracture is when a bone in the toe or toes is broken from a traumatic injury. Commonly, this happens when a heavy object falls on the toe or when you stub your toe into something too hard.
While it may be tempting to tape that toe to the other toes and pretend like nothing happened, this is a bad idea. Without proper treatment, your toe bones could heal out of place, called misalignment, causing deformed toes and potentially painful corns. The Florida Podiatric Medical Association (FPMA) recommends seeking prompt medical attention if you suspect a broken toe so it can be treated properly.
Broken bones in your feet can happen in multiple ways and forms. Common foot fractures include:
- Displaced fracture. A displaced fracture is when the bone breaks into two or more parts and moves. The ends of the broken bone become misaligned.
- Comminuted fracture. This is a displaced fracture in which the bone breaks into several pieces.
- Non-displaced fracture. A non-displaced fracture is when there is a crack or even a full bone break. The break is still in alignment with the rest of the bones in the foot.
- Open fracture. When the broken bone has pierced through the skin, this is an open fracture. Both Displaced and Comminuted fractures can be open fractures if the bone is exposed.
- Closed fracture. A closed fracture is when the fractured bone does not puncture the skin. Closed fractures are still painful, may swell, and require treatment. Closed fractures can be displaced, comminuted, or non-displaced.
Because there are over 20 bones in the foot, breaking any of them can be serious, and you should seek medical attention to avoid further damage to the broken bone.
Our Broken Bone Treatments
If it’s verified that you’ve broken a bone in your ankle, toe, or foot, we have you covered— even better than your favorite footwear. Seeking the care of a podiatrist over a general practitioner means that you will get the help you need.
There are several common treatment options for fractures below the knee that our foot and ankle specialists may suggest.
- Immobilization. If the bone is broken extensively, the patient may need to sit tight and stay off of the injury. A brace, boot, splint, or hard cast, sometimes paired with crutches, can help support the foot. This additional support keeps the bones from shifting out of place, allowing the break to fuse back together correctly.
- Fracture reduction. This is resetting the bone so that the misaligned fracture is now in the proper place to allow faster healing. Following this procedure, wearing a cast or boot will help relieve pressure on the injury so the bone can heal with less pain for you.
- Surgery. If necessary, surgery may require medical pins, screws, and/or plates to keep the bones together while they fuse. This is more common if your injury is a comminuted fracture. An immobilizing brace or cast is typically used to maximize the benefits of the surgery.
- RICE method. Rest Ice Compression and Elevation (RICE) can be all that’s needed for hairline stress fractures, as following the RICE method can improve symptoms of pain and swelling. However, this should be determined by your friendly, neighborhood podiatrist, and is used as a supplement to all other medical treatment.
Our experienced podiatrists can help with all ankle, toe, and foot broken bones in the best way possible. This is why treatment plans are made on a case-by-case basis.
Sprained, Not Broken
If it turns out that your injury is not a fracture, congrats— but don’t start dancing just yet. When you’ve sprained your ankle or any other area of your foot, it means that there’s damage to at least one of the ligaments holding the bones together, and it can still be a pretty big deal. We diagnose and treat all three grades of sprains.
Grades of Sprains
- Grade 1: This is when there is stretching or slight tearing of the ligament with mild tenderness, swelling, and stiffness. The joint feels stable, and it’s usually possible to walk with minimal pain after a short period of rest. However, avoid running or intense exercise immediately after a grade 1 sprain to prevent the stretching or tearing of the ligament from worsening into grades 2 or 3.
- Grade 2: This sprain is more severe and is characterized by actual tearing of the injured ligament. Although not a complete tear, there will likely be moderate pain, probable swelling, and possible bruising of the ankle. The ankle may still feel mostly stable, but walking is painful.
- Grade 3: If you’re here, you really did a number on your ligament(s). This grade is a complete tear of one (or more) main ligaments in your foot. Intense pain usually makes walking impossible, and the ankle is unstable.
If you’re in pain, listen to the warning signs and see a podiatrist if there is no improvement with rest. Ankle and foot sprains with torn ligaments can (and will) worsen over time if ignored.
Our Sprain Treatments
There are several common treatment options for sprains that our foot and ankle specialists may suggest.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. To help reduce swelling and pain after a sprain of any grade, your podiatrist may suggest over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs can also decrease the time it takes for you to get back to your normal routine.
- Semi-rigid or lace-up ankle supports. These are a great option to decrease the risk of a recurrent ankle injury. If you have a history of ankle sprains, be prepared for us to recommend one of these so you can finally heal up properly.
- Graded exercise regimens. Physical therapy, especially those involving proprioceptive elements such as ankle disk training, is used to increase the strength of the ligaments to prevent future injuries.
The Process for Broken Bones and Sprains at Foot & Ankle Group
We know that you can’t put your best foot forward if it’s injured, which is why we’ll quickly address your pain with the best technology available. As the leading professionals for the health of foot and ankle disorders in Southwest Florida, we pride ourselves on providing excellent corrective surgery, but ONLY when totally necessary. If you’ve injured your foot, visit one of our locations nearest you. We will work with you to create a customized, comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your concerns and offers you the best methods of caring for your fracture, sprain, and more.