Metatarsal fractures are some of the most common types of foot injuries. The metatarsals are the long bones which span from the midfoot and lead to the toes. There are five metatarsals, and a fracture or “break” in these bones can be a devastating injury and lead to pain and decreased activity.
However, not all fractures are created equally. When the fracture is “non-displaced”, this means that the bones are still in proper alignment. These types are fractures can often be treated conservatively with walking boots, casting, or stiff-soled surgical shoes. The pain associated with non displaced fractures is generally mild and can be relieved by non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as Motrin. It is also critical to keep the affected foot elevated and ice the area to minimize swelling. X-rays are taken routinely to monitor fracture healing and transition the patient back to sneakers at the appropriate time.
A metatarsal stress fractures is a small crack in the bone as a result of repetitive stress or trauma. These types of fractures are common in runners and fitness enthusiasts. Stress fractures can even be so subtle that they do not show up on x-ray. Management of metatarsal stress fractures is almost always conservative. The key is to not return to exercise too early before the bone heals, which can take 6-8 weeks depending on the individual.
If a metatarsal fracture is “displaced” this means that the two ends of the fracture are not aligned properly and that the fracture may need to be fixed surgically. Depending on the fracture pattern, the surgeon may use plates, screws, or wires to fixate the fracture. However, the decision to proceed with surgery is always one that is made mutually with our patients, and we take into account their health, activity level, and overall goals.
Each of the five metatarsal bones are unique and there are numerous types of fracture that can occur based on the mechanism of injury. Because metatarsal fracture management is so nuanced, you should seek the opinion of the experts at Advanced Podiatry!