Foot Sprain, Strain, and Fracture
What is a Foot Sprain, Strain, and Fracture?
Foot sprains, strains, and fractures are all musculoskeletal injuries that affect your mobility and limit your ability to participate in physical activity. Foot injuries can be caused by several reasons, including:
- during sports
- in an accident or fall
- stepping incorrectly
- twisting your ankle
Sprains occur when ligaments—flexible tissues that connect bones together—get stretched or torn. Foot sprains are most common in the ankles and occur due to twisting, falling down the stairs, or a foot injury. Sprains are of three types:
- Grade I — mild sprains that only stretch or create microscopic tears in the ligaments
- Grade II — moderate sprains that result in partially torn ligaments and destabilize the surrounding joint
- Grade III — severe sprains that result in a completely torn ligament; unable to bear weight on foot in question
Pulling a muscle, as it's known colloquially, is what is medically known as a strain. Strains occur when muscles and tendons are torn or stretched. Tendons connect muscle to bone, and the injury that occurs can be categorized into:
- acute strains—occurs suddenly when the muscle contracts and lengthens at the same time
- chronic strains—happen as a result of overuse of the muscle in question due to repetitive movement
Foot Fractures or Breaks
Foot fractures cause a break in the bone. They are frequently more severe than sprains or strains and should be immediately looked at by your podiatrist. Depending on the extent of the fracture, a patient may also experience damage to the surrounding tendons, muscles, and joints. In more severe cases, the foot fracture may cause damage to blood vessels, resulting in loss of blood flow to the foot.
What Are the Causes of Sprains, Strains, and Fractures in Your Feet?
Foot injuries can occur for a variety of different reasons. Patients that are active and regularly partake in sports, such as football and snowboarding, can be more prone to sports-related sprains, strains, and fractures, especially chronic injuries. They can also occur during a fall or accident and even while walking on uneven surfaces.
Symptoms of Foot Sprains, Strains and Fractures
Symptoms of foot sprains include:
- tenderness and swelling
- bruising and inflammation
- inability to use the injured joint
Muscle strains in the foot can also result in pain and swelling. In addition, strains result in spasms, cramping, and weakness of the injured muscle, depending on the severity of the injury. Common muscle strains occur in the:
- Hamstring — these tend to be chronic in nature and may take up to six months to heal completely.
- Back — occurs when muscles surrounding the spine are pulled, twisted, or torn. Patients that play basketball and volleyball are more prone to back strains.
Fractures cause bruising, inflammation, and severe pain. Depending on the severity, they may also damage blood vessels and nerves in the foot, affecting circulation and leading to numbness and tingling. Your podiatric physician should carefully examine you if you suspect you've fractured your foot.
What to Expect During Foot Sprain, Strain, and Fracture Treatment at the Podiatrist
If your foot injury results in increased pain, swelling, bruising, and the inability to put weight on your feet, it's time to see a podiatrist. A podiatric physician will examine and determine the extent and severity of your injury. Foot sprains, strains, and fractures often result in similar symptoms, so being looked at by a trained healthcare professional will ensure that you not only get diagnosed correctly but also provide an individualized treatment plan that gets you back on your feet in no time.
During your appointment, expect your podiatrist to ask a comprehensive set of questions to determine your current health, including the extent of your injury and symptoms you may be experiencing. Expect a physical examination of your ankles and feet, as well as diagnostic tests such as MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds to determine the severity of your injury. X-rays work best in determining bone fractures in the foot, while MRIs and ultrasounds are ideal for sprains and strains.
Depending on your results, your podiatrist will formulate a treatment plan. Patients can expect anywhere from two to several months of rest for a foot-related injury to heal. Common treatments include:
- follow the RICE rule for minor sprains and strains:
- Rest the injured ligament or muscle
- Ice the area to reduce swelling
- Compress with an elastic bandage to bring down swelling
- Elevate the foot
- use of medications such as NSAIDs
- use of a cast or crutches to take the weight off the injured foot
- hot-cold therapy for minor strains
- surgery — in the case of unstable fractures that do not heal on their own, and torn ligaments
Prevention of foot sprains, strains, and fractures includes:
- physical therapy to build muscle strength (preventative)
- daily stretching to warm up muscles and ligaments before vigorous exercise
- appropriate footwear
- a diet rich in nutrients
- don't overexert yourself
- avoid walking or working out on uneven surfaces