Toe and Forefoot Fractures
Broken bones are common in the toes, as well as the five long metatarsal bones that comprise the forefoot. They can occur after a stubbed toe, a twisted foot, a short fall, or even just accumulated wear and tear from overuse.
The good news is that toe and forefoot fractures can often be treated non-surgically. However, this does not mean you should underestimate them. If you suspect a fracture, you should always get it checked out by a specialist like Dr. Timson.
With a thorough examination, accurate diagnosis, and personalized treatment plan, we can help you make a quick and complete recovery while minimizing the long-term risk of recurring problems.
Types of Toe and Forefoot Fractures
There’s more than one way to break a bone. And while some types of fractures are more “immediately serious” than others, all fractures can develop into severe, lasting problems if they are not treated properly.
Common toe and forefoot fractures we see frequently at the Community Foot Clinic of McPherson include:
- Broken toes. Many people mistakenly believe broken toes are not treatable, but this is false. We can help you determine the best way to recover, whether that’s through simple rest and taping, or wearing a cast temporarily.
- Acute stable fracture. This occurs when a bone is broken through, but the bone ends still line up properly. Often, the best treatment is immobilizing and protecting the foot, allowing the bone to heal on its own.
- Acute displaced fracture. In this instance, the bone has not only broken, but also shifted out of alignment. Surgery is typically required if the bones cannot be manually pushed back into position.
- Metatarsal stress fractures. These are cracks that develop on the surface of the bones, usually in response to overuse (excessive, repetitive impacts) over a longer period of time. Initial symptoms may be mild aching during or after exercise, but grow worse (and longer-lasting) over time.
- Jones fracture. This is a break that occurs near the base of the fifth metatarsal bone. Onset tends to be sudden, and pain is concentrated on the outside middle part of the foot. Bruising and difficulty walking are also common.
How to Tell If You May Have Had a Toe or Forefoot Fracture
Most of the time when you break a toe or metatarsal, you’ll feel moderate to severe pain immediately. If the forefoot fracture is also displaced, you may notice a toe or part of the foot has become misshapen. Bruising and swelling are also very common.
Severe fractures may make it very difficult or impossible to walk or bear weight on the foot. Less severe fractures may still allow you to walk—especially if it’s a stress fracture—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
As we said above, toe and forefoot fractures (even stress fractures) are serious injuries that may worsen, fail to heal properly, or even lead to long-term consequences (such as post-traumatic arthritis) if not properly addressed. If you suspect a break has occurred, discontinue your activity immediately and contact us as soon as possible.
Treatment and Recovery for a Toe or Forefoot Fracture
In the first few hours and days after the injury, until you can get in to see us, follow the RICE protocol. This means avoiding weight-bearing (rest) and using a combination of icing, compression dressing, and elevation to minimize pain and swelling as much as possible.
The first step for us, once you’re in the office, is to understand where exactly your bone has been damaged, and to what extent. Our office is equipped with on-site digital X-ray and ultrasound technology, which allows Dr. Timson to get crystal clear images of both the bones and surrounding soft tissues right away during the evaluation.
Once we know the extent of the damage, we can build an effective treatment plan.
For most stable or stress fractures, surgery is not required. However, you will need to rest your foot for a period of time while your body heals itself. This may involve “buddy taping” a broken toe to its neighbor, or temporarily placing the foot in a walking shoe, boot, or even a cast, depending on the severity of the break.
Rarely, surgery may be required to realign bones that have been broken out of place, or repair a bone that has not healed properly. Dr. Timson is an accomplished foot and ankle surgeon and has much experience performing these kinds of reconstructions. He will make sure you are prepared with all the instructions you will need to follow after any procedure. That said, our preference is always to heal your fracture non-surgically if possible.
At the end of the treatment course, we may take another X-ray to confirm that the bone has properly healed.
Don’t Delay Necessary Treatment
If you think you may have a forefoot fracture, don’t ignore it and let the problem either get worse or heal incorrectly. It will only cause you more pain later. Though it does take some time to heal, a foot returned to its full strength is better than a weakened one that continues to be uncomfortable long after the typical recovery time.