It was almost four years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. My mom slipped on some gravel and fell, breaking her ankle. The pain, the trauma, the stress of being laid up for almost a year … the extreme inconvenience of the situation! I felt it for her many days and wondered whether I would be able to endure the overall experience if it were me. Learning to use the wheelchair, crutches, walker, and finally, a walking stick. Using an air cast splint with big booties . . . Oh the drama!
Everyone has had or will have a minor toe, foot, or ankle injury at one point or the other. The cause – overuse, accidental falls and, wear and tear. It’s most common for injuries to occur when participating in sporting activities, work tasks, and projects. Most sporting activities are high impact or involve jumping and quick changes in direction, so persons involved in such are at higher risk.
Dancing and gymnastics are other activities that could lead to such problems.
With children, if a bone injury occurs near a joint, it may injure the growth plate and this should be evaluated. In adults over 50, the risk for injuries and fractures occur more as a result of muscle mass loss, and bone density problems. In that age group, decreased vision and poor balance are common, and can lead to an increased risk for accidental injury.
Most minor injuries tend to heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote healing. However in the case of more serious injuries, follow carefully the directions of your doctor, orthopedic surgeon, podiatrist/chiropodist/foot health practitioner, chiropractor or physiotherapist. Their instructions are critical for healing and getting back on your feet.
An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, a fall, or from twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. The pain may be sudden and severe, and bruising and swelling may develop soon after. Acute injuries include:
• Bruises – A result of a fall or other injury.
• Punctured wound – From a sharp object like a nail, tack, ice pick, knife, teeth, and needle. Puncture wounds increase your risk for infection because they are hard to clean and provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow.
• Damaged ligaments – These support your joints.
• Damaged tendons – Such as a ruptured tendon in your heel (Achilles tendon).
• Damage to your joints (sprains) – Often from twisting the ankle.
• Pulled muscles (strains) – Muscles of the foot and ankle can be strained and can also rupture.
• Broken bones (fractures) – Such as a broken toe, ankle or foot.
• Dislocation – A bone moving out of place.
Overuse injuries happen when too much stress is placed on your joint or other tissue, often by “overdoing” or continuous repetition of the same activity. These include:
• Achilles tendonitis or tendinosis – The breakdown of soft tissues in and around the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
• Stress fracture – A hairline crack in a bone.
• Plantar Fasciitis – Inflammation of the plantar fascia, a broad, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot that extends from the front of the heel, to the base of the toes, and which helps maintain the arch of the foot.
• Metatarsalgia – Pain in the ball (front) of the foot.
Treatment for your toe, foot, or ankle injury may comprise first aid measures (such as the application of a brace, splint, or cast), orthotic shoes, arch supports (orthotic insoles), physical therapy, medicine, and in some cases surgery. Treatment depends on:
• The location, type, and severity of your injury.
• When the injury occurred.
• Your age, overall health condition, and activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).
Some other steps that may be taken:
• Rest – Restrict your activity and get off your foot/ankle.
• Ice – Gently place a plastic bag of ice wrapped in a towel on the injured area in a 20-minute-on, 40-minute-off cycle.
• Compression – Lightly wrap an Ace bandage around the area, taking care not to pull it too tight.
• Elevation – To reduce swelling and pain, sit in a position that allows you to elevate the foot/ankle higher than your waist.
• For bleeding cuts, cleanse well, apply pressure with gauze or a towel, and cover with a clean dressing. See your foot specialist as soon as possible. It’s best not to use any medication on the cut before you see the doctor.
• Leave blisters unopened if they are not painful or in a weight-bearing area of the foot. A compression bandage placed over a blister can provide relief.
• Foreign materials in the skin—such as slivers, splinters, and sand—can be removed carefully; but a deep foreign object, such as broken glass or a needle, must be removed professionally.
• Treatment for an abrasion is similar to that of a burn, since raw skin is exposed to the air and can easily become infected. It is important to remove all foreign particles with thorough cleaning. Sterile bandages should be applied, along with an antibiotic cream or ointment.
There’s a mistaken notion that a ‘break’ ‘crack’ and ‘fracture’ are different. This is not so. They are all applicable for the description of a broken bone. For prevention you should:
• Wear the correct shoes for your particular activity.
• Wear hiking shoes or boots in rough terrain.
• Not continue to use any unevenly worn sports shoes.
• Ensure that the toe box in “steel-toe” shoes is deep enough to accommodate your toes comfortably.
• Always wear hard-top shoes when operating a lawn mower or other grass-cutting equipment.
• Not walk barefoot on paved streets or sidewalks.
• Watch out for slippery floors at home and at work. Clean up obviously dangerous spills immediately.
• Turn on a light if you get up during the night. Many fractured toes and other foot injuries occur while attempting to find one’s way in the dark.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!