The calcaneus bone is the big heel bone located at the rear part of the foot. Our entire body weight is supported by this bone while we walk. It consists of a hard outer part within which lies a soft spongy bone. Damage to this tough protective outer layer results in the fragmentation of the bone. A fall from a great height, overuse, injuries, or events involving a forceful impact to the heel commonly contribute to a calcaneal fracture.
Those involved in activities such as rock climbing, repetitive marching or sports such as basketball, soccer and athletics are at an increased risk of developing such calcaneal stress fractures. Now that you are aware of the circumstances under which one may end up with a fractured calcaneus, let's find out more about calcaneal fracture symptoms.
Symptoms of Calcaneal Fracture
An acute heel pain is the most characteristic sign of a fractured calcaneus. One is most likely to experience pain during weight-bearing activities. The other symptoms include inability to walk, inflammation, swelling, warmth, redness and bruising in the heel area. The severity of the symptoms may vary depending on the extent of the impact. Pain would be intense if the bone was hit with a great force.
A calcaneal stress fracture that occurs due to a mild injury or overuse is most likely to cause a generalized pain in the affected foot. Pain might develop gradually and become constant. Repeated actions over a period of time will wear down the bone and restrict normal motions. If the skin around the fracture is broken, one is diagnosed with an open injury or a compound fracture. This is a surgical emergency that needs immediate medical attention.
Treatment of Calcaneal Fracture
Now that you are aware of the signs of a fractured heel bone, let's move on to the treatment options. Since heel pain is one of the most common symptoms, those suffering from pain in the heel area must consult a doctor soon. If left untreated, such fractures can even lead to abnormal gait. After conducting a physical examination, doctors may take a look at the X-ray report or conduct a bone scan to confirm the diagnosis.
Within the hard exterior of the heel bone lies the soft spongy bone which is why trauma to the bone as a result of a fall or accidents can shatter the bone and cause multiple fractures. As mentioned earlier, a compound fracture would need a surgical intervention. The aim of the surgery is to repair the bone fracture and restore the subtalar joint to its normal position.
The subtalar joint is the joint that connects the heel bone and the ankle bone (talus). Talus is a small bone that connects calcaneus with two bones in the lower leg called tibia and fibula. If the joint is severely damaged, doctors may have to perform surgery to realign the bones. A metal plate may have to be fitted to restore the joint. The treatment options will vary depending on the extent of damage caused by the fracture. Sometimes, doctors might resort to a closed reduction procedure. This procedure is performed under anesthesia. In case of an extensive fracture, an open reduction may be recommended. The patient is advised to avoid putting weight on the injured foot post surgery.
Resting the bone is a very crucial part of the treatment of calcaneal fracture. Generally a cast or splint is used for keeping the leg immobilized. It must be worn till the bone heals completely. One should use crutches to keep the weight off the fractured foot. These precautions are essential to speed up healing. Radiographic examinations would be performed to assess the healing process. The cast is removed once the symptoms are no longer felt by the patient. The patient can later go for physical therapy sessions for strengthening the bone. Anti-inflammatory medicines might also be prescribed. The patients are also advised to keep the affected leg elevated.
This was some information on calcaneal fracture symptoms and treatment. If left untreated, a fractured heel bone can give rise to certain complications. If you have been experiencing severe heel pain or any of the aforementioned symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.