You may feel as young as you always have, but sometimes your body can betray you. While staying active has health benefits as you age, that activity also comes with risks. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that doctors have seen an increase of fractures over the last few decades, and they attribute it in part to a more active older population. Broken ankles and foot bones that don’t heal properly are one reason you could develop a related disorder such as arthritis. If you happen to injure your feet, make sure you get thorough care.
First Steps after a Foot or Ankle Injury
The first thing you should do when you hurt your foot or ankle is to take the weight off of it. Lean on a friendly shoulder and hop to safety. Then give Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates a call and set up a time to come in. We are quite aggressive when these types of injuries are involved, because improper healing can lead to so many problems down the road. We encourage you to have it checked out as soon as possible, which is why we will see you within 24 hours for acute injuries (48 hours on weekends).
Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between sprains and fractures. You may have a high pain tolerance and not realize how serious your injury is. Walking around on a broken bone will often make it worse, especially if the bones have moved out of alignment. On the other hand, you can develop such severe swelling and pain that you are sure it is broken, only to find out that it your problem is a bad sprain. Unless the joint is oddly misshaped or a bone is protruding from the skin, the only way to tell for sure if bones in the joint are broken is with an X-ray. We have digital X-ray equipment right in our office so you don’t need to make another stop.
How We Treat Fractures
Once we determine there is a break, we evaluate how serious it is and tailor the treatment plan accordingly. The break could be in one of your leg bones (tibia or fibula) or in the talus on which they rest. Severe breaks—where the bone has separated and pierced the skin—need immediate treatment to ward off infection in the bone that can greatly lengthen your recovery time. The bones will likely need to be realigned surgically and completely immobilized in a cast. More moderate breaks may be immobilized with a removable brace or splint. Simple breaks may only need taping, a walking boot, or a high-topped shoe to stabilize the joint.
Once the joint is held properly in place, healing can begin. During this time, we may recommend RICE therapy at home to deal with pain and swelling. This includes rest, ice packs applied to the area, compression with an elastic wrap, and elevation above heart-level. We may also recommend certain pain relief or anti-inflammatory medications. Even when the swelling has gone down and the pain subsides, you may need to keep weight off the foot by using crutches or a knee walker for a few weeks.
Foot and ankle fractures can take 6-8 weeks or longer to heal, depending on which bone is broken and where. If surgery was required, the resulting swelling can increase your recovery time. Make sure you follow all of our instructions during this time. Putting weight on the injury too soon can further damage the area, cause it to heal in a deformed position or lead to arthritis, all of which can cause chronic pain.
We will monitor you and make sure everything is progressing as it should. Once the bones have healed, you will still need some time of physical therapy or range-of-motion and strengthening exercises to recondition the ligaments and muscles and restore full function.
For great care, trust your feet to the expert staff at Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates. Call one of our five convenient locations.