Foot & Ankle Injuries
Importance of Immediate Treatment
Foot and ankle emergencies happen every day. Broken bones, dislocations, sprains, contusions, infections, and other serious injuries can occur at any time. Early attention is vitally important. Whenever you sustain a foot or ankle injury, you should seek immediate treatment from a podiatric physician.
This advice is universal, even though there are lots of myths about foot and ankle injuries. Some of them follow:
- “It can’t be broken, because I can move it.” False; this widespread idea has kept many fractures from receiving proper treatment. The truth is that often you can walk with certain kinds of fractures. Some common examples: Breaks in the smaller, outer bone of the lower leg, small chip fractures of either the foot or ankle bones, and the often neglected fracture of the toe.
- “If you break a toe, immediate care isn’t necessary.” False; a toe fracture needs prompt attention. If X-rays reveal it to be a simple, displaced fracture, care by your podiatric physician usually can produce rapid relief. However, X-rays might identify a displaced or angulated break. In such cases, prompt realignment of the fracture by your podiatric physician will help prevent improper or incomplete healing. Often, fractures do not show up in the initial X-ray. It may be necessary to X-ray the foot a second time, seven to ten days later. Many patients develop post-fracture deformity of a toe, which in turn results in a deformed toe with a painful corn. A good general rule is: Seek prompt treatment for injury to foot bones.
- “If you have a foot or ankle injury, soak it in hot water immediately.” False; don’t use heat or hot water on an area suspect for fracture, sprain, or dislocation. Heat promotes blood flow, causing greater swelling. More swelling means greater pressure on the nerves, which causes more pain. An ice bag wrapped in a towel has a contracting effect on blood vessels, produces a numbing sensation, and prevents swelling and pain. Your podiatric physician may make additional recommendations upon examination.
- “Applying an elastic bandage to a severely sprained ankle is adequate treatment.” False; ankle sprains often mean torn or severely overstretched ligaments, and they should receive immediate care. X-ray examination, immobilization by casting or splinting, and physiotherapy to ensure a normal recovery all may be indicated. Surgery may even be necessary.
- “The terms ‘fracture,’ ‘break,’ and ‘crack’ are all different.” False; all of those words are proper in describing a broken bone.
- Wear the correct shoes for your particular activity.
- Wear hiking shoes or boots in rough terrain.
- Don’t continue to wear any sports shoe if it is worn unevenly.
- The toe box in “steel-toe” shoes should be deep enough to accommodate your toes comfortably.
- Always wear hard-top shoes when operating a lawn mower or other grass-cutting equipment.
- Don’t walk barefoot on paved streets or sidewalks.
- Watch out for slippery floors at home and at work. Clean up obviously dangerous spills immediately.
- If you get up during the night, turn on a light. Many fractured toes and other foot injuries occur while attempting to find one’s way in the dark.