and Ankle Injuries
Foot and ankle emergencies
happen every day. Broken bones, dislocations, sprains, contusions,
infections, and other serious injuries can occur at any time.
Early attention is vitally important. Whenever you sustain a
foot or ankle injury, you should seek immediate treatment from
a podiatric physician.
That advice is
universal, even though there are lots of myths about foot and
ankle injuries. Some of them follow.
- "It can't be broken,
because I can move it."
False; this widespread idea has kept
many fractures from receiving proper treatment. The truth is
that often you can walk with certain kinds of fractures. Some
common examples: breaks of the thinner of the two leg bones;
small "chip" fractures of either foot or ankle bones;
and the frequently neglected fracture of a toe.
- "If you break a toe,
immediate care isn't necessary." False; a toe fracture needs
prompt attention. If X-rays reveal it to be a simple, displaced
fracture, care by your podiatrist usually can produce rapid relief.
However, X-rays might identify a displaced or angulated break.
In such cases, prompt realignment of the fracture by your podiatric
physician will help prevent improper or incomplete healing. Many
patients develop post-fracture deformity of a toe, which in turn
results in formation of a painfully deformed toe with a most
painful corn. A good general rule is: Seek prompt treatment for
injury to foot bones.
- "If you have a foot
or ankle injury, soak it in hot water immediately." False; don't
use heat or hot water if you suspect a fracture, sprain, or dislocation.
Heat promotes blood flow, causing greater swelling. More swelling
means greater pressure on the nerves, which causes more pain.
An ice bag wrapped in a towel has a contracting effect on blood
vessels, produces a numbing effect, and prevents swelling and
pain. After seeing a podiatric physician, warm compresses and
soaks may be used.
- "Applying an elastic
bandage to a severely sprained ankle is adequate treatment."
False; ankle sprains often mean torn
or severely overstretched ligaments, and they should receive
immediate care. X-ray examination, immobilization by casting
or splinting, and physiotherapy to insure a normal recovery all
may be indicated. Surgery may even be necessary.
- "The terms 'fracture,'
'break,' and 'crack' are all different." False; all of those words are proper in describing
a broken bone.
Before Seeing the Podiatrist
If an injury or accident does occur, the steps
you can take to help yourself until you can reach your podiatric
physician are easy to remember if you can recall the word "rice."
Cut back on your activity, and get off your feet if you can.
Gently place a plastic bag of ice, or ice wrapped in a towel,
on the injured area in a 20-minute-on, 40-minute-off cycle.
Lightly wrap an Ace bandage around the area, taking care not
to pull it too tight.
Sit in a position that you can elevate the foot higher than the
waist, to reduce swelling and pain.
- Switch to a soft shoe or slipper, preferably
one that your podiatrist can cut up in the office if it needs
to be altered to accommodate a bulky dressing.
- For bleeding cuts, cleanse well, apply pressure
with gauze or a towel, and cover with a clean dressing. It's
best not to use any medication on the cut before you see the
- Leave blisters unopened if they are not painful
- Foreign materials in the skin, such as slivers,
splinters, and sand, can be removed carefully with a sterile
instrument. A deep foreign object, such as broken glass or a
needle, must be removed professionally.
- Treatment for an abrasion is similar to that
of a burn, since raw skin is exposed to the air and can easily
become infected. Cleansing is important to remove all foreign
particles. Sterile bandages should be applied, along with an
antibiotic cream or ointment.
- Wear the correct shoes for any event. Good
walking shoes provide more comfort and better balance.
- Wear hiking shoes or boots in rough terrain.
- Different sports activities call for specific
footwear to protect feet and ankles. Use the correct shoes for
each sport. Don't wear any sports shoe beyond its useful life.
- Wear safety shoes if you're in an occupation
which threatens foot safety. There are specific safety shoes
for a variety of on-the-job conditions. Be certain they are fitted
- Always wear hard-top shoes when operating
a lawn mower or other grass-cutting equipment.
- Don't walk barefoot on paved streets or sidewalks.
- Watch out for slippery floors at home and
at work. Clean up obviously dangerous spills immediately.
- If you get up during the night, turn on a
light. Many fractured toes and other foot injuries occur while
attempting to find your way in the dark.