Fractures in the body can be painful, and a fifth metatarsal fracture is no different as it can cause pain and discomfort on the outside of the foot. The fifth metatarsal bone joins the little toe, and it is susceptible to two types of fractures that are common among athletes and individuals who engage in strenuous activities that require the use of the feet. In this article, we will discuss what a fifth metatarsal fracture is, signs and symptoms, and possible treatments.
An avulsion fracture is the first type of fracture that can occur in the fifth metatarsal. It happens when a tiny piece of bone is pulled out of the main bone by a ligament or tendon. This type of fracture occurs when the ankle rolls and is often ignored when it occurs with an ankle sprain. Alternatively, a Jones fracture is a type of fracture that occurs in a small area of the fifth metatarsal that receives less blood and is likely to experience difficulties during the healing process. Jones fracture can be an acute break or a stress fracture that results from repetitive stress, overuse, or trauma. However, other types of fractures can occur in the fifth metatarsal, such as mid-shaft fractures, fractures of the metatarsal head, and neck.
Symptoms of avulsion and Jones fractures are similar and include pain, swelling, tenderness on the outside of the foot, difficulty in walking, and possible bruising. If you experience these symptoms, you should consult a foot and ankle surgeon immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
To diagnose a fifth metatarsal fracture, the surgeon will ask how the injury occurred or when the pain started. He will also examine the foot and order x-rays to confirm the diagnosis. Jones fracture may not appear on the initial x-ray, and further imaging studies may be required.
Non-surgical treatment is preferred for a fifth metatarsal fracture, and applying the “R.I.C.E.” method of care is the first step. Rest is essential, and keeping the foot off the ground can prevent further injury. Icing the affected area for 20 minutes and using an elastic wrap to control the swelling is also helpful. Additionally, changing positions can help with the circulation of blood and reduce swelling, and elevation can be beneficial in this regard. Depending on the severity of the injury, the foot may be immobilized with a cast, cast boot, or stiff-soled shoe. Crutches may also be needed to avoid putting weight on the affected foot. In the case of Jones fracture, the use of a pain-free external device to stimulate bone growth and speed the healing process may be recommended.
If the injury involves multiple breaks or fails to heal, surgery may be necessary. The foot and ankle surgeon will use a procedure that is best suited to the patient’s injury.
In conclusion, a fifth metatarsal fracture is a common injury that occurs in the fifth metatarsal bone, causing pain and discomfort on the outside of the foot. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness on the affected foot. A foot and ankle surgeon should be consulted immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment. Non-surgical treatment options such as immobilization or bone stimulation are often preferred, while surgery is required in severe cases. Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM is a qualified foot and ankle surgeon that can provide specialized care for individuals with fifth metatarsal fractures.