Coping with a Broken Limb

Using a Crutch to assist with Weight Bearing

It happens to a lot of people. However, the challenge is the healing. Many persons come into the Clinic with problems based on being misinformed, doing incorrect things, or not doing anything at all to help the healing process.

Bones in the foot may be broken in many ways. X-rays often help make the diagnosis but bone or CT scans may be needed to help visualise the injury.



A fracture, break, and crack all mean the same thing, when it comes to a bone injury; since, the integrity of the bone has been damaged. The cause of injury may be obvious, such as jumping from a height or a heavy object falling and landing on the foot, or it may develop gradually over time; such as, the result of the constant stress of walking or running.

Ankle Fracture

The most common causes of foot injuries include falls; crush injuries (including impacts from a heavy object or an automobile accident), missed steps, and stress/overuse injuries.


Broken bones are painful, especially with weight bearing, causing the person to limp. Pain and limping are the most common symptoms that will prompt a person to seek medical care. Swelling, bruising, and tenderness are the other regular symptoms. Because the body tries to protect itself, walking may be too painful or the person will present with a limp. If the bones are significantly displaced (the bone alignment has been lost or there is an associated joint dislocation), a deformity of the foot may be apparent.

In patients with altered pain sensation due to peripheral neuropathy (persons with diabetes are a classic example), pain may not be present, and the fracture may be missed initially. This may also occur in patients with spinal cord injury. Bruising, swelling, and deformity may be the only clues to a potential fracture.

TreatmentRICE Treatment

First aid at home may include RICE (rest, ice, elevation, and compression). Rest may include the use of crutches to limit weight bearing as tolerated.

The treatment of a foot fracture depends upon what bone is broken, the mechanism of injury, or the underlying medical condition of the patient.

Immobilisation of the fractured foot will help with pain control. Medication can be helpful with pain control by decreasing inflammation in the area. The use of a compression dressing, a stiff soled shoe, and weight bearing as tolerated, are options too.

Rest, ice, and elevation will help limit swelling and decrease pain.


As with any injury, complications may occur with the following being possible:

-Broken bones may fail to heal, causing a non-union that may require surgery to repair.
-If the fracture line enters a joint surface, arthritis may develop, even if the joint surface has been aligned by surgery.
-Open fractures may be complicated by infection and damage to underlying structures like tendons, arteries, and nerves.
-Though it is uncommon, crush injuries to the foot may cause significant swelling in the tight spaces of the foot, leading to compartment syndrome. Should the pressure in one of these compartments rise above the patient’s blood pressure, blood flow to the rest of the foot may be compromised. This is a surgical emergency, incisions into the foot compartment, are performed to allow space for the swelling to occur, relieve the pressure, and restore blood supply to the foot.

Can a broken foot be prevented?

-The foot is placed under considerable stress on a daily basis, absorbing the pounding of walking, running, and jumping. Poorly-constructed and cushioned shoes and obesity help contribute to stress fractures and general instability of the foot.
-High-impact sports that include twisting and direct blows to the feet increase the risk of fracture. Appropriate protective equipment will help decrease the risk of injury.
-Certain occupations increase the risk of foot injury. These include the construction industry in which weights may be dropped on a foot, or falls from height may occur.
-People with osteoporosis or peripheral neuropathy may have increased risk of foot injury. For these people, it is important to decrease the clutter around the house to prevent injury from falling. It is also helpful to limit the number of throw rugs in a home that can cause a person to trip and fall.

In a nutshell, ensure you follow the treatment plan given by your doctor or podiatrist as this would eliminate the risk of poor healing. It’s the start of a new year, so we should all endeavour to operate more proactively regarding our foot and general health. May 2015 be everything you hope for… Happy New Year!

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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