Bone tissue is strong enough to provide structure for our bodies, but it certainly is not infallible. Most individuals suffer a broken bone at some point during their lives. Given that the feet and ankles contain one-quarter of all the bones in the body, it is only natural that foot and ankle fractures are fairly common. There are many different potential types of breaks that can happen in the lower limbs, including heel bone fractures.
When you sustain a broken heel bone (calcaneus), it is important to recognize the injury so that you can come in and receive the effective treatment you need here at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists.
What is the Calcaneus?
As noted, the calcaneus is the heel bone, which is located in the lower rear part of the foot. It connects to the cuboid and talus bones in the front and top, respectively. The connection between the calcaneus and talus bone is especially important for normal foot functioning. This joint is known as the subtalar joint and it enables side-to-side foot movement.
The heel bone can be thought of as being similar to a hardboiled egg. The calcaneus has a hard, but thin, shell on the outside that contains a spongy, softer bone inside. This spongy consistency is necessary to help absorb the tremendous force loads that come with the impact of every step.
When the outer shell of the calcaneus fractures, the bone has a tendency to collapse and fragment. As a result, heel bone fractures are often severe injuries. Furthermore, a fracture that involves the subtalar joint can come with the potential for long-term consequences. Chronic pain and arthritis are particular concerns in such a case.
How do Calcaneal Fractures Occur?
In many cases a broken heel bone happens as a result of an auto accident or fall from a height. When the heel is crushed against a floorboard or the ground after falling off of a ladder, the outer shell can crack. These fractures are also associated with other lower limb injuries, like ankle sprains. Less commonly, a heel bone fracture is a caused by repetitive stress or overuse of the calcaneus. In these cases, it is known as a stress fracture.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of calcaneal fractures differ depending on whether the injuries are stress fractures or traumatic. The symptoms of a traumatic heel fracture can include:
Immediate pain following the traumatic event.
Sudden inability to bear weight on the affected foot.
Bruising of the ankle and heel.
Swelling in the heel.
In the case of a heel stress fracture, there will be generalized pain in the heel area. This pain will often begin at a low level, but increase with time and worsen during and immediately following physical activity. Should the pain subside with rest, it is likely a stress fracture.
Given that there are different types and severity of fractures, it only stands to reason that there are various treatment methods that might be used. Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS or Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS will discuss the best possible treatment options with you. These may either be conservative or surgical in nature, depending on your particular case.
When conservative care is an option, some treatments we may use include:
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE method). Rest, which means staying off the injured foot, is especially important for allowing the fracture to heal. Ice reduces inflammation and pain in the affected area. Compression and elevation will further reduce the swelling.
Immobilization. We may elect to place the foot in a boot or cast to ensure that the fractured bone does not move and disrupt the healing process. To avoid placing weight on the foot, we may provide crutches.
For traumatic fractures, treatment frequently involves surgery. Our podiatric surgeons will choose the best surgical approach for you and explain what will be done.
Bone Fracture Treatment in Austin, TX
Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists provides first-class care for a wide range of foot and ankle injuries, including heel bone fractures, for patients from across the greater Austin, TX community. Call us at (512) 328-8900 or schedule an appointment online today to find out how we can help you.