The calcaneus, or heel bone, is a large and strong bone that bears much of the body’s weight and plays a critical role in supporting motion. Injuries to the calcaneal bone are relatively rare, typically requiring massive amounts of force. However, calcaneal fractures—while uncommon—can be debilitating and painful, making everyday tasks difficult.
The Causes and Symptoms of Calcaneal Fractures
Calcaneal fractures are usually caused by unusually traumatic events. The most common causes of these injuries include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Falling from a high height
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Other blunt or penetrating trauma
Broken heel bones can yield a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Localized pain
- Swelling of the heel or foot
- Visible heel deformities
- Inability to put weight on the heel or walk without assistance
Calcaneal fractures, like most other injuries, vary in severity. Some minor fractures may be painful but pose no additional impediment to mobility. However, more serious breakages could deform the calcaneus, preventing your heel and adjacent Achilles tendon from generating the power and tension needed to support your body weight.
Medical researchers believe calcaneal fractures are uncommon, compromising an estimated 1 to 2% of all foot-related fractures. While calcaneal fractures may be rare, they can impair patients’ ability to walk and cause long-term complications if left untreated.
Diagnosing a Calcaneal Fracture
If you believe that you may have broken your heel bone, a podiatrist could help you perform the tests needed to make an accurate diagnosis. Before inspecting your calcaneus, your podiatrist will take a detailed health history and perform a physical examination.
During the physical examination, your podiatrist may check for fractures using their fingers, exerting gentle pressure on and over the heel area. They may also ask you to move your feet and toes to assess whether your foot has a normal range of motion and responds to physical sensation.
If your podiatrist cannot accurately gauge the extent of your heel injury, they could order additional imaging tests, including an X-ray. Some complex fractures require CT mapping.
The Difficulties of Treating Calcaneal Fractures
Calcaneal fractures are notoriously difficult to treat. This is due, in large part, to the calcaneus’s unique characteristics. The heel bone has, for instance, a strong outer shell. However, its inside is comparably soft. If and when the calcaneus fractures, it could shatter in several different places.
Your treatment options could be dependent on the:
- Cause of your injury.
- Severity of your injury.
- Degree to which your calcaneus has been displaced.
- Extent of surrounding soft tissue damage.
- Presence of any additional injuries related to the accident.
Since most calcaneal fractures cause the heel bone to widen, shorten, or both, most treatments are designed to restore the foot’s normal structure. Recovery times vary between patients and often depend on the fracture’s location and complexity.
Treating Calcaneal Fractures
After assessing your injury and considering any possible contingencies, your podiatrist could recommend any one or more of the following treatments:
Bed rest alone is rarely sufficient to heal a fractured calcaneus, but is often necessary to facilitate recovery.
Ice or Heat Therapy
Ice or heat therapy can improve circulation to the tissue surrounding the calcaneus. It can also relieve pain and fracture-related swelling.
If your calcaneal fracture hurts to the point of interfering in everyday life, your podiatrist could prescribe pain-relieving medication to mitigate pain symptoms.
Physical therapy could help restore strength, flexibility, and function after the fracture has healed.
Custom orthotics are specially-made prescription devices that support, accentuate, and comfort your feet. Orthotics can be used to adjust a patient’s posture or redistribute their weight after an injury. Since orthotics are designed for individual patients, they can address injury-specific concerns.
Surgery and other invasive procedures are always a last resort. However, the egglike character of the calcaneus lends to complex fractures, and surgical interventions are sometimes necessary to restore normal anatomical appearance and function.
Are You Suffering From Calcaneal Fractures In The Caldwell Or Meridian, Idaho Area?
If you're suffering from calcaneal fractures you owe it to yourself to speak with our experienced podiatrists as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact us online or call our office directly at 208.855.5955 to schedule your appointment. We service all areas surrounding Meridian, Idaho as well as all areas in the Caldwell, Idaho area. We look forward to helping you!