Watching someone use parkour to develop their physical and mental abilities can be a heart-in-your-throat experience. It is definitely not for the faint of heart! Based on military obstacle course training, its aim is to get from one place to another in the safest and most efficient manner, but it can look—and be—dangerous. One wrong leap from a 6-foot wall and you could suffer a debilitating heel fracture that could alter your activities for months.
Cracks in Your Foundation
Your feet are the foundation for your entire skeletal system, and your full weight usually falls on your heel first. If the heel bone (calcaneus) is broken, it’s like depending on a cracked foundation to hold up a building – unless it is “healed” properly, the structure will not be stable.
Calcaneal fractures are usually caused by a hard jolt or impact, such as a fall or an accident, but can also occur if the foot or ankle are twisted severely. The bone itself may look hard and sturdy, but it is quite spongy and malleable inside. Once you break its outer shell, it can fragment and collapse.
A heel fracture can be one of several types. A stable break means the pieces of bone still align, whereas in a displaced one broken ends won’t match up. A closed fracture does not pierce the skin, but an open or compound one not only opens the skin but also causes more damage to tendons, muscles or ligaments, involving longer healing and more risk of complications. A comminuted fracture is a serious shattering of the bone into several pieces.
Symptoms of a Broken Heel Bone
Your body’s reactions to injury are quite predictable. The area will swell up from extra fluids that rush to repair the damage, there may be bruising from broken blood vessels under your skin, and the nerves in the area will send pain messages to your brain. Beyond that, the heel may look deformed or out of position, and you won’t be able to put weight on it.
Let these signals be your guide. If it hurts to walk on your heel—don’t. Let our expert podiatrists examine you to see the extent of the damage and plan your treatment so the fracture heals properly. Your precise explanation of what happened and our hands-on exam and imaging tests will give us an accurate picture of the damage. That is the best way to avoid chronic pain and arthritis setting into the joint in the future.
How a Heel Fracture Is Treated
If the skin is broken, or you have an avulsion fracture where the Achilles tendon pulls off a piece of the calcaneus, surgery is recommended right away. With other breaks, we may have you stay off your foot and elevate it for a few days, to let the swelling go down before any surgery is attempted. Not all heel fractures require surgery, either. If the bone is not displaced, we may be able to treat it just with a cast to immobilize the foot and strict non-weight bearing for several weeks until the calcaneus is healed.
After weeks or months of recovery, you will need to rebuild the condition of your foot and ankle. This will involve a regimen of exercises to regain full range of motion in the area; physical therapy to strengthen and build muscle, tendon, and ligament strength; and gradual weight-bearing when we determine the bone is strong enough to handle it without re-injury.
Watch for Complications
Any serious injury can have side effects, and a heel fracture is no different. You may have delayed wound healing, pain, irritation of nerves or tendons, and stiffness in the joint. More severe problems include things like blood clots, infections, and full collapse of the heel bone.
For superior care of a fracture or any other foot problem, come to Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center. Our foot doctors are expert reconstructive surgeons specially trained in recognizing and treating all issues with your feet and lower legs. Call (303) 423-2520 to schedule an appointment in one of our west Denver area offices: Wheat Ridge, Golden, Evergreen or Granby, CO. You can also use our website to contact us with your questions or request a consultation. Putting your foot care in our capable hands will calm your uneasiness and help you to a full recovery.
Photo Credit: Satit_Srihin via FreeDigitalPhotos.net