Fractures, and Sprains, and Breaks, Oh My!

Kristen Stewart with an injured foot at the Oscars.

Sprains, fractures, strains—there are few people who can describe the difference. The one thing that’s clear is that your feet provide support and mobility to your body, and when they’re injured it can be impossible to go about normal daily activities without pain.

A sprain is a soft-tissue injury that usually occurs when the ligaments that connect the bones are pulled, stretched, or torn. Fractures are actual breaks in the bone. Many sprains and fractures occur during sports such as football and basketball, but they just as commonly result from stumbling or tripping on uneven ground.

Some symptoms that may indicate you have sprained or fractured your foot are: pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking. Before you get a chance to see your podiatrist, remember the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Obviously, you should always stay off of a sprained or fractured foot or ankle and refrain from walking and playing sports. You should also apply ice every three to four hours for 15-20 minutes at a time to reduce inflammation. Tightly wrap an elastic bandage (such as an Ace bandage) around the affected foot or ankle (making sure you don’t cut off circulation), and elevate it on a stack of pillows (ideally at a position above your heart) to reduce swelling.

A podiatrist can determine whether you have a sprain or fracture, and provide you with a treatment plan to optimize the healing process. He or she may order an X-ray, or even an MRI or ultrasound (soft tissue injuries show up better on MRIs and ultrasounds) to determine the extent of your injury.  Treatment depends on what type of injury your podiatrist diagnoses you with. Stress fractures and sprains are both treated with rest and immobilization and possibly crutches, a soft cast, or a special boot. Breaks in the bone may require your podiatrist to use a local anesthetic and realign the bones so they can heal properly. An “unstable” fracture (the ends of the bone do not stay in place after realignment) may require surgery which involves putting metal screws and plates in place. Oral inflammatory medicines can be used to decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Quality Foot Care in Doylestown is your local foot and ankle care destination. Call 215-230-9707 today.

Does Your Foot Hurt While You’re Running? Stress Fractures Revealed

 Sometimes people experiencing pain in their feet are surprised to see that an x-ray reveals no visible crack or fracture in the bone. This could indicate that they have a stress fracture, or a tiny hairline fracture on the surface of the bone (usually the weight bearing bones of the lower leg and foot). Athletes such as basketball players, soccer players, and runners are particularly prone to this kind of injury.

Stress fractures are caused by repetitive application of force, so people regularly involved in exercises that include jumping up and down or running long distances on hard surfaces are often victims. Also, people with osteoporosis (which weakens the bones) can develop stress fractures from normal everyday use of a bone.

In the beginning a stress fracture may be unnoticeable, but the discomfort, which is decreased during rest, usually worsens over time. Many runners report feeling discomfort due to a stress fracture at the same specific point in their run every time. Pain is for the most part concentrated to one specific point, which can become visibly swollen. If the underlying cause of a stress fracture is not addressed, it may not heal properly and will cause chronic pain and/or more stress fractures.

The main method of treatment for a stress fracture is reducing the weight bearing load on your feet until the bone heals. Wearing a walking boot/brace and possibly even using crutches can achieve this purpose. Resting from activity as well as icing the area to reduce swelling can ensure that your stress fracture heals properly.

If you believe you have a stress fracture and the pain persists or becomes severe even during rest, it is time to call Quality Foot Care at 215-230-9707. Dr. Lefkowitz and his staff have the expertise and care to provide effective treatment for stress fractures and all other foot and ankle concerns at their Doylestown office.