is a fracture?
put, a fracture is a broken bone.
are many types of fractures: Open fractures, Closed fractures,
Transverse fractures, Oblique fractures, Spiral fractures, Stress fractures,
and so on. But these are all simply ways to classify different types
of broken bones.
do you get fractures?
can become fractured from one of two ways:
sudden trauma (like a fall down some stairs, or a car accident)
slow, gradual build-up of strain that eventually over-fatigues the bone
until it breaks (known as 'stress fractures', these are very frequently
seen in the foot)
there is not too much you can do to avoid accidental trauma, there are a
host of factors that can influence whether a bone will be likely to break
from a gradual build-up of stresses from overuse.
example, your occupation plays a role (jobs that require long periods of
weight bearing will put more stress on bones that more sedentary ones); your
shoes make a difference (high heels, for example, can put an enormous strain
on your metatarsal bones); weight, health and nutrition also play major
certain inherited diseases of bone can make it weaker than normal (as with
Osteogenesis Imperfecta, for example), and certain acquired diseases can
affect bone (as with Paget's disease and Rickets). Most common,
however, is the weakening of bone over time from Osteoporosis.
bones can become fractured?
bone can become fractured, especially from trauma. In the foot, the
most likely bones to become fractured, though, are the heel bone
(calcaneus), the ankle (usually the fibula), the ball of the foot
(metatarsals), and toe bones (phalanges).
do you treat fractures?
Fractures are pretty well treated
with the same concept in mind: for a fracture to heal, the two opposing bony
ends from moving. This is called 'immobilization'. This can
be achieved from fibreglass or plaster casts, soft casts (Unna's Boots), splints,
taping, or from surgical implantation of wires, pins, screws or plates.
But you don't treat
fractures of the toe, right?
you should. Admittedly, toe bone fractures seem to be
ignored in a lot of emergency rooms, but they shouldn't be.
toe bones are no different from any bone in your body.
Those same E.R. doctors would likely treat the exact same fracture if it
were in the hand, for example, and the foot goes through a lot more stress
and strain with each step than does your hand. In fact, because the
bones are so small, the fracture is somewhat more likely to extend into a
joint than in other bones, which can cause long-term arthritis and pain.
too bad toe fractures (and even metatarsal fractures) are ignored as much as
they are. It's quite easy to immobilize a toe with tape, for example.
Not only does this allow them to heal more quickly, but they heal with less
pain, too. So, by all means, yes, fractures of the toe bones should
How do you know
which is the best way to treat a given fracture?
Each fracture is different, and the
decision on treatment is made on a case-by-case basis. Some bones heal
better or more quickly than other bones, and some fracture patterns heal
better or more quickly than other fracture patterns, even within the same
The physician must understand all the
science behind healing, but also apply the science to each case. This
is why medicine is both a science and an art.
do you avoid fractures?
It may be hard to avoid
fractures completely, as it's hard to avoid unexpected trauma. But
there are some simple things you can
do to avoid certain fractures, such as stress fractures:
Wear appropriate shoes.
High heels predispose you to fractures of the bones in the ball of the
foot, and poor work shoes can predispose you to ankle injuries, stress fractures of the toe bones, and other injuries.
Avoid fatigue and over-stressing
your bones. New recruits in the army frequently suffer from stress
fractures after 20-mile marches, for example, and long periods of
shopping, aerobics, or other weight-bearing can do the same thing
to any of us.
Don't smoke. There is
little question that smoking worsens your body's ability to heal, and
this includes healing from small amounts of strain in bone, before they
Eat well. Good nutrition is
vital to allow your body the nutrients it needs to repair small stresses
If you are a post-menopausal
female, have a family history, or have other risk factors, you may be more
likely to develop osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens bone.
Bone density tests are available, as are medications to help you keep
the calcium in your bones.