You are only as strong as your foundation. Cracks or breaks in the bottom of a building affect it all the way to the top. The same can be said for your body. When your feet are compromised, your whole body feels the loss. The heel functions as the foundation for your lower limbs. When you develop damage like heel bone fractures, your mobility and independence suffer.
Feeling the Breakdown
Your calcaneus—or heel bone—is one of the major load-bearing bones in your body. Directly under your legs and ankle, it absorbs high levels of pressure when you stand and walk around. It’s crucial for your balance and the anchor point for your Achilles tendon, which allows you to push off of the ground to move forward. Heel bone fractures critically weaken your foot and can make it nearly impossible to walk.
You feel the pain as soon as the break takes place. Usually your discomfort is sharp and you cannot put much, if any, weight on the hindfoot. The damaged area swells and may bruise. Some fractures actually deform the bone, making it even more difficult to walk. If the break affects the subtalar joint, or the point where your heel meets your ankle, you may develop stiffness or arthritis that makes it challenging to walk on uneven surfaces.
How It Happens
Heel bone fractures can be the result of a simple twist or trip, or the consequence of a more dramatic accident, like falling from high up. Sometimes the condition develops from unhealed stress fractures. Your heel bone actually has a hard outer layer that protects softer, spongier bone inside. When this is broken, the softer layer is in danger of collapsing. The more severe the injury, the more likely your calcaneus will sustain serious damage.
How You Recover
Since your heel is so critical for your stability and movement, any breaks need to be managed right away. We will examine your foot and use X-rays to diagnose the fracture and determine the severity of your condition. From there, our staff will work with you to decide if conservative treatments will be enough, or if surgery will be needed to repair the damage.
Your foot will have to be immobilized in a cast or a boot for a time to allow the bones to grow back together. In many cases, you won’t be able to put weight on that foot at all until the bones have started to recover. To relieve the pain, you’ll need to decrease swelling and irritation around the bone. Ice the affected foot and keep it elevated to discourage any edema. When your calcaneus has healed, you may need physical therapy to re-condition your foot to handle the impacts of your activities.
If the heel fracture is displaced or broken into more than one piece, conservative therapies may not be enough. The bones will need to be properly aligned—and possibly held in place by pins—to be able to heal. We will do whatever is best to restore your heel to full health.
Heel bone fractures can compromise your mobility and leave you in pain. You need to take care of them so that your bone heals correctly and doesn’t deform. Don’t wait to seek treatment. Contact Advanced Foot and Ankle Specialists of Arizona for more information, or for an appointment to care for your heels. Use our online request page, call, or fax our two locations to reach us: call our Chandler office at (480) 963-9000 and fax (480) 963-0375; or call our Gilbert office at (480) 981-1800 and fax (480) 981-0229.