Fractures are a common occurrence in the fifth metatarsal, a long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe. Two types of fractures that usually occur in this area are avulsion fractures and Jones fractures. An avulsion fracture happens when a small piece of bone is pulled off the main portion of the bone by a tendon or ligament. On the other hand, Jones fractures occur in a small area of the fifth metatarsal that receives less blood and is therefore more prone to difficulties in healing. A Jones fracture can be either a stress fracture or an acute break. Jones fractures are caused by overuse, repetitive stress, or trauma. They are less common and more difficult to treat than avulsion fractures.
Symptoms of avulsion and Jones fractures include pain, swelling, and tenderness on the outside of the foot, difficulty walking, and bruising. Anyone who has these symptoms should seek the help of a foot and ankle surgeon as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment. The surgeon will ask how the injury occurred or when the pain started and will examine the foot, gently pressing on different areas of it to identify where there is pain. The surgeon may also order x-rays to determine the extent of the injury.
If you are unable to see a foot and ankle surgeon immediately, the R.I.C.E. method of care should be applied. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest involves staying off the injured foot, while ice application involves placing an ice pack on the injured area, using a thin towel between the ice and skin, for 20 minutes, and then waiting at least 40 minutes before icing again. To control swelling, compression using an elastic wrap can be used, and elevation involves raising the foot slightly above the level of your heart.
Depending on the severity of the injury, the surgeon may recommend immobilization with a cast, cast boot, or a stiff-soled shoe. Crutches may also be needed to avoid placing weight on the injured foot. Bone stimulation, most commonly used for Jones fractures, may be used to speed up the healing process.
However, if the injury involves a displaced bone, multiple breaks, or has failed to adequately heal, surgery may be required. The foot and ankle surgeon will determine the type of procedure that is best suited to the individual patient.
In summary, fractures in the fifth metatarsal are common, and Jones fractures are less common but more difficult to treat than avulsion fractures. Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, difficulty walking, and bruising. If you experience these symptoms, see a foot and ankle surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment. Dr Gilbert Huang DPM is an expert in foot and ankle surgery and can effectively diagnose and provide personalized treatment for foot and ankle injuries.