A fracture occurs when you partially or completely break one of the bones in your body. There are many different types of fractures, and your feet and ankles are prone to this type of injury, as you’re constantly using them to walk, run, and jump.
At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our board-certified foot and ankle specialists treat fractures of all kinds at our offices in and around Chicago, Illinois. There are many forms of foot and ankle injuries, so how can you tell if your injury is actually a fracture? Here’s what our experts have to say.
Types of fractures
Bones are strong, but if you apply enough force, they’ll break, and the severity of the break usually depends on the amount of force. Minor force may only cause a crack in the bone tissue; extreme force may shatter the bone entirely.
If the bone breaks so that fragments stick out through the skin, or a wound extends down to the broken bone, the fracture is called an open fracture. It’s particularly serious because once the skin is broken, infection can develop in both the wound and the bone.
Common fracture types include:
- Stable fracture — broken ends of the bone line up neatly
- Comminuted fracture — bone shatters into a number of pieces
- Compression, or crush, fracture — most common in the spongy bone in the spine, such as vertebral collapse due to osteoporosis
- Greenstick fracture — bone partly fractures on one side but the rest of the bone can bend (most common in children)
- Hairline fracture — a thin, partial fracture of the bone
- Stress fracture — repeated stress, such as long-distance running or ballet, causes small fractures
If left untreated, stress fractures can weaken your bone structure, leaving you at risk for more serious fractures.
Symptoms of a fracture
Fracture symptoms vary based on the body part, your age and general health, and the severity of the injury. They may include:
- Swelling around break
- Bruising or discoloration
- Inability to put weight on the injured area
- Limited or no range of motion
- A grating sensation as bone ends rub against each other
- Bleeding with an open fracture
Pain, swelling, and bruising can be signs of other trauma, such as strains, sprains, or dislocations. The best way to determine if your foot injury is actually a fracture is to come into one of our Chicagoland Foot and Ankle locations for an X-ray or other imaging test.
Treating a foot or ankle fracture
In most cases, bones heal naturally over time. Treatment is, therefore, focused on providing the injured bone with the best situation for healing.
We start by reducing the fracture, which involves lining up the ends of the broken bones. With small fractures, we may be able to do this by manipulating the bones externally. In more complicated cases, though, we may need to perform surgery to insert plates and screws to hold the bone steady.
Once we’ve aligned the fracture, we immobilize the bone with a splint, cast, or brace to allow for healing. A fracture takes from several weeks to several months to heal, depending on its severity and if there have been complications such as an infection.
Once the bone has healed, you may need to do physical therapy to regain muscle strength and increase your range of motion. If the fracture occurred near or through a joint, there’s a possibility you may experience permanent stiffness or arthritis, an inflammation of the joint tissue.
If you’ve sustained a foot or ankle injury, the best way to tell if you’ve fractured the bone is to come into Chicagoland Foot and Ankle for an expert assessment and imaging tests.
To learn more, or to schedule, call us or book online today. We have offices located in the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, as well as Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois.