Footminders Orthotics Blog

Understanding Metatarsal Fractures

by Fernando Salam on Nov 20, 2008

Our feet consist of a complicated anatomy including bones, tendons, joints, muscles, and soft tissues. There are 26 bones in our feet, nineteen of which are bones in the toe and metatarsal, or what are called midfoot bones.  Fractures to the bones in our feet are more common than any other bones in the body, and metatarsal bones are some of the most affected areas. There are two major types of metatarsal fractures:

  • Stress Fracture. This type of fracture is caused by deformities, osteoporosis, or repetitive stress, and present themselves as broken hairlines. Athletes are more prone to stress metatarsal fractures when they force their feet to run increasing distances. This condition could also be caused by using tight shoes or improper arch support, which can be relieved by the use of orthotic insoles. Aside from athletes, aging people are also prone to metatarsal stress fractures.
  • Traumatic Fracture. This type is also known as acute fracture. It is caused by direct impact to the bones. An example of which is a heavy object that falls on the feet. This type of metatarsal fracture can either be displaced or non-displaced.

The common symptoms of metatarsal fracture are swelling, pain in bearing weight, and pain when touched.

Effect of Metatarsal Fractures When Untreated

Metatarsal fractures need to be diagnosed properly so that the right treatment can be provided, and it poses multiple challenges if left untreated. The following are possible complications:

  • Arthritis. This ailment may result if a displaced fracture or stress fracture to the joint is left untreated. In these cases, the pain will be recurrent and leaves the person feeling in a state of weakness most of the time.
  • Deformity in the body. As the person ages, the body may develop a deformed structure due to the fracture. Wearing orthotic insoles may help relieve the condition by restoring proper biomechanical alignment. However, it is possible that deformities cannot be treated by orthotics alone, especially if the fracture was severe.
  • Long-term dysfunction or chronic foot pain. If the pain is recurrent despite the use of insoles, serious medical attention must be given,
  • Long displacement may lead to necessitate surgery.

Possible Treatments 

Some metatarsal fractures can be treated without the need of surgery, but each case can be treated differently. General treatment includes:

  • Avoiding stressful activities. As much as possible, the feet must take its rest. The person must refrain from moving frequently to give time for healing.
  • Use of orthotic insoles. Appropriate orthotics and shoe inserts aid in healing and preventing deformities.
  • Foot Care. This includes follow-up from medical practitioner, avoiding tight shoes.  Rehabilitation will probably be necessary to treat metatarsal fractures.
  • Surgery. For more severe cases, a surgery may be recommended.
  • Casting. This is a non-surgical procedure in which the feet are immobilized for a certain period to promote healing of the fracture.

Overall, the metatarsal fracture could be light or severe. What is most important is for it to be diagnosed properly so that appropriate treatment is given. If left untreated, it may lead to a more serious medical condition.

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