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What Causes a Foot Fracture + How To Treat It

Dr. Eman Elmi
June 4, 2023
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When dealing with foot pain it is often hard to tell the difference between a foot sprain or a foot fracture. A foot fracture is significantly more problematic than a sprain. Both can cause a lot of pain and trouble walking. In this article we’ll take a look at the difference between a foot fracture and a foot sprain, the causes of each, and how to treat them. 

How to Tell If Your Foot Is Fractured

You may be wondering what causes a foot fracture, or how to tell if your foot is fractured. Most fractures happen after a fall or an impact.

Fractures vary in size and intensity. Some can be very small, and some can be large enough to have bone piercing the skin. In the case of smaller fractures, it can be more difficult to differentiate them from a foot sprain. 

If your foot is fractured you’ll feel immediate, throbbing pain somewhere along the foot bone. This pain increases with activity and decreases when resting. It will also be difficult to walk or bear any weight on a fractured foot. 

Additionally, the skin around a foot fracture may display swelling, bruising, and tenderness. These symptoms are reduced by resting and icing the area.

How to Treat a Foot Fracture

Knowing how to treat a foot fracture will help you lessen your pain and minimize symptoms more quickly. Starting treatment immediately can improve quality of life and speed up recovery. Here are some simple treatment methods for a foot fracture. 

  • Take pain medicine as directed. If you haven’t yet seen a physician start with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medicine. 
  • See a doctor for an exam and an accurate diagnosis.
  • If you are given a splint ensure you keep this on until your follow-up appointment. 
  • Avoid putting any weight on the injured foot. If your physician told you to use crutches, use them as directed.
  • Treat your fracture with ice or a cold pack for 10-to-20-minute intervals. Try to do so every 1 to 2 hours for the first 3 days, or until the swelling goes down.
  • Elevate your foot on a pillow whenever possible during the first 3-day period. Elevating it above the heart will help reduce swelling, so try to elevate it as often as possible. 

In addition to the above, follow any additional care instructions given by your doctor. 

Sprain vs. Fracture: What’s the Difference?

What’s the noticeable difference when comparing a sprain vs. fracture? Both can cause severe pain, so it is often hard to tell the difference. Additionally, both can cause swelling and difficulty walking. 

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that connects two bones. Foot sprains most commonly occur in the ankle. This is a notable difference between foot sprains and foot fractures. Since fractures involve damage to the bone itself, they more commonly occur in the bones that make up the feet rather than the ankle. 

Since there are so many overlapping symptoms between foot sprains and foot fractures, the best way to diagnose what you are suffering from is to see a medical professional. 

Foot Sprain Symptoms to Look Out For

Since foot sprains most commonly occur in the ankle, you may hear or feel a “pop” when a sprain happens. Otherwise, symptoms vary in intensity and severity depending on how much the ligaments are torn. Swelling and bruising are common, similar to fractures. A sprained foot will also result in limited mobility. 

Treating a sprain typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In severe cases, sprains may require surgery to repair torn ligaments. However, in most cases, a sprain will clear up on its own with proper rest and elevation. 

Treat Your Feet Right With Help From Diablo Foot and Ankle

If you aren’t sure whether you have a foot fracture or sprain, you should see an expert and get evaluated. Diablo Foot and Ankle is the Bay Area’s preferred foot and ankle specialist. They know what it takes to treat a fracture and will help you get on the road to recovery. Call or schedule an appointment today.

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