Metatarsals are the main bones which make up the large proportion of the mid-foot. There are a total of 5 metatarsal bones in a foot and any one of these five may get fractured that is known as the metatarsal fracture. Multiple bones can also get fractured at a time. The fracture of metatarsal bone is a serious medical emergency as it causes the immobility if foot and wrong adhesion of bone can also give abnormal shape to the foot. Acute diagnosis and rapid treatment are required to prevent the bad consequences. As foot receives the body weight and is transferred down through the foot bones to the ground, including metatarsals so their fracture is quite common. The overuse of foot or doing a heavy exercise involving foot for long time, or standing for long time can put much stress of these bones to cause their fracture.
Usually the fractures are tiny known as the ‘hair line fractures’. A sudden blow to foot can also cause much complex form of fractures such as multiple fractures of a metatarsal or a may cause a wide gap between a broken metatarsal bone.
Causes of metatarsal fractures:
Main causes of metatarsal fractures are:
- Excessive use of foot for a long time
- A heavy exercise that uses feet
- Sudden and too much pronation
- Excessive supination of foot
- Sports that cause stress like football
- Some existing medical condition like osteoporosis
Symptoms of metatarsal fracture:
Major symptoms that are shown due to fracture of metatarsals are:
- Pain on moving
- Relief of pain on taking rest
- Tenderness i.e. pain on touching the affected area
X-rays are not useful in diagnosing the fractures of metatarsals as these are tiny fractures and are visible on x-rays only after two weeks of fracture when healing starts and tissue deposit occurs. More advanced techniques like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scan are used immediately after fracture to confirm the diagnosis. A good medical history about recent physical activities and a generalized examination of foot also assist to a great extent in making a diagnosis for metatarsal fracture.
Treatment for metatarsal fractures:
The main and basic treating tip to heal the fractures is to give rest to the broken part. If the foot is maintained immobile and broken bone does not get moved again the body heals the bones rapidly. Bone cells known as osteocytes are formed at the broken part and problem is gone. A cast or a special shoe can be used to limit the foot movements. The acute pain is relieve by using the pain killers like aspirin and paracetamol and inflammation is handled by taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen. After some weeks, when pain is gone, try moving the foot slowly to see the healing of bone. X-rays are used to check the prognosis of the fracture.
If rest fails to treat the problem, then surgery is performed and broken bones are joined together by screws or wires.