Have you ever watched a house being built from the ground up or created a tall tower of blocks with your child? In both scenarios, the success of the whole operation hinges on a good foundation. A large crack in the foundation of a house or a block set up crooked can compromise the stability of the structure. Your feet work much in this same way and are often referred to as the foundation of your body. When a crack or fracture happens in the heel bone, your foundation is compromised and a lot of pain can result.
Strong but Not Invincible
The heel bone, also called the calcaneus, connects with the talus to form the subtalar joint. It helps support the foot, and the joint allows the foot to roll inwards and outwards and maintain a normal walking movement. While bone is a very tough substance, heavy weight or a hard impact can push it beyond its limits. When a break occurs, the structure of the heel bone, which involves a thin hard outer layer and a softer bone on the inside, is greatly compromised. A break often causes the bone to collapse and break into smaller pieces, which is what makes this type of fracture a serious injury. A heel bone fracture is most often caused by a traumatic incident such as a fall from a high place or a crushing injury. The hard sudden impact causes the bone to buckle under the pressure.
Putting Things Back Together
There are several kinds of calcaneus fractures, each requiring a certain form of treatment. A stable fracture is when the broken bones stay in alignment. Treatment then often only requires casting or another form of immobilization to keep the bones together while healing. A displaced fracture is when the broken ends of bone separate and do not line up. This makes treatment a little more challenging and usually requires surgery to put the broken pieces back together. An open fracture is when broken bones break through the skin. This is a severe injury that usually involves surrounding muscle, tendons and ligaments and requires immediate surgery to protect against infection and set the pieces back together. In most cases, there is a period of time where the foot needs to be immobilized until the bones heal and you regain your strength.
With various types of fracture come varying symptoms. The most common include pain, bruising, swelling, deformity to the heel, and an inability to put weight on your foot. There are times though when a person can walk on a fracture with limping. This is not a good idea, as it could cause the heel to become further deformed and weakened. When a fracture also involves the subtalar joint, there is a risk for long-term complications such as chronic pain and arthritis. Appropriate and timely treatment is imperative to maintain your foot health.
If you are experiencing symptoms we have described here and think you may have a heel bone fracture, don’t wait to seek treatment. The sooner the fracture can be repaired, the sooner your symptoms will improve and you will greatly increase the chance of the fracture healing properly. Contact Harvey R. Danciger, DPM for an appointment or further information. Call our Palm Desert, CA office at (760) 568-0108 or reach us online through our appointment request page.