A Broken Metatarsal Guide

A broken metatarsal is a serious foot injury, one which will result in the sufferer being unable to walk for several weeks. Within this short guide, you will find information on what a broken metatarsal is, how they are caused, and how they are treated.

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What is a Broken Metatarsal?

A broken metatarsal occurs when one of the long bones in the foot, which run between the ankle and the toe, is broken. This is usually caused by twisting the foot, or by some form of sudden blunt trauma shock. Because the metatarsal bones are a major part of the structure of the foot, this is a dilapidating injury which will see the sufferer unable to walk on the foot until the injury is almost fully healed, broken foot healing time could take up to 12 weeks.

Broken Metatarsal Key Facts

If you were to view broken foot pictures that pertain to a fractured metatarsal, you would see that regardless of which metatarsal is broken, from a fractured 1st metatarsal to a fractured 5th metatarsal you would see that the swelling is always in the central part of the foot. This is because the metatarsal bones are the long bones that connect your ankle to your toes. They are named, from to inside (big) toe outwards, the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth metatarsal.

Take a look at the diagram below marking the metatarsal bones in green. You will see that they are long, curved bones and it is these bones which make up the arch of the foot.

Broken Metatarsal Diagram

Broken Metatarsal Diagram

A factored metatarsal is the most common of all foot injuries caused by trauma. They are very commonly suffered by athletes playing sports such as football. Indeed, a large number of famous footballers have suffered a fractured metatarsal sometime in their career including David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Steve Gerrard. This has lead to a re-design of football boots, to add special protection for the metatarsal bones.

Metatarsal fractures are also common in walkers and hikers. As the graph below shows, the foot is by far the most common part of the body damaged while walking.

Injury by Location for Walkers

Injury by Location for Walkers

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Metatarsal?

A fractured metatarsal shares some symptoms with other types of foot injuries, although the symptoms are generally more pronounced. broken metatarsal symptoms can include:

  • All metatarsal injuries, such as a broken 5th metatarsal will be very painful. Additionally, the foot around the break will also be very tender to touch.
  • Every metatarsal injury, such as a 4th metatarsal fracture will see bruising and swelling occur on the foot, close to the fracture.
  • For very serious injuries, such as a first metatarsal fracture which has been caused by heavy force, the foot itself may be deformed in shape.
  • You may have heard a crack or snap when you injured your foot, as the metatarsal broke.
  • For compound fractures, the symptoms of broken metatarsal will include an open wound, and potentially part of the metatarsal bone poking out through the skin.
  • A fractured metatarsal is a serious, extremely painful injury, and you may feel sick of faint.

If you think you have a broken metatarsal NHS treatment will be required to set you on the road to recovery. Visit your local Accident & Emergency Department straight away.

What are the Most Common Causes of a Broken Metatarsal?

There are three ways in which a broken metatarsal are caused, no matter which of the metatarsal bones it is, a fractured 3rd metatarsal, or fractured 2nd metatarsal or any other of the metatarsal bones, they can all be injured in these three ways.

  • The first is direct trauma, applied force to one of the metatarsal bones. This is the most frequent cause of a fractured metatarsal in sportsmen such as footballers, in this case, when another player accidentally kicks the foot of another player.
  • The second cause of this type of fracture is a rotational force being applied to the foot. Such as the foot being twisted. In many cases, the ankle will not be able to rotate far enough, and the lateral pressure applied to the metatarsal bone results in a fracture.
  • The third way that fractured metatarsal occurs, is through stress and overuse. Normally, this would result in a hairline fracture rather than a full break.

When Should You Seek Medical Care for a Broken Metatarsal?

The pain and discomfort associated with a broken metatarsal mean that it is highly unlikely a person would overlook or ignore it. Therefore, if you believe you have broken a metatarsal bone, you will naturally want to go to the hospital. Unlike other injuries such as a broken toe, which might not hurt very much at all, a fractured metatarsal is always painful.

For a broken metatarsal, for example, a broken 5th metatarsal NHS treatment is going to be a requirement. Whilst you are travelling to the hospital, try and keep your weight off the injured foot as much as you can. You will likely need assistance in walking, as this is a serious foot injury.

You can use an ice pack, or a home-made alternative using a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, to lessen the swelling and reduce pain.

Don’t eat or drink on the way to the hospital, as your broken metatarsal treatment may require emergency surgery to realign the broken bones.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Bone Report

As part of your fractured metatarsal treatment your doctor will arrange for x-rays of the injury to be taken. The doctor will then use the results of these x-rats to write up a broken bone report for your case. You can request a copy of this broken bone report.

We may be able to help you arrange for a completely free orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report. This will help you learn whether you have been treated correctly and whether there is anything else you can do to make your fractured foot healing time as short as possible. Call us now to find out if you can get a 100% free orthopaedic assessment of your broken metatarsal injury.

How is a Broken Metatarsal Diagnosed?

Before your metatarsal fracture treatment can begin, a diagnosis must be made. When you arrive at the hospital, you will be seen by a member of the nursing staff, who will make you comfortable, offer you some painkillers, and make sure that your fractured metatarsal is supported.

A doctor will then visit you, and they will perform the full diagnosis. This will be done via a combination of manual examination of the damaged foot and an x-ray. In some cases, where a hairline fracture is suspected, an MRI might be used instead of an x-ray.

How is a Broken Metatarsal Treated?

The treatment for a broken metatarsal is fairly standard no matter which of the bones is broken. For example, 5th metatarsal fracture treatment Is the same as that which is applied for the other 4 metatarsal bones in the foot.

For a minor fracture of a metatarsal bone:

A cast or a special support such as a broken 5th metatarsal walking boot will be applied, to keep the broken bones immobilized as they begin to knit back together.

Generally, a broken metatarsal is a serious enough injury to keep you off your feet totally for a number of weeks. However, in some cases, crutches may be given to the patient, to help them walk.

The patient might be given a short course of painkillers to get them through the pain of the first few days as their injury begins to heal.

For more serious fractures of a metatarsal bone:

For compound or complex fractures of the metatarsal bones, one of the broken foot healing time stages is to realign the bones of the foot, so they will knit back together and heal properly.

A doctor may attempt to do this using his hands alone, but if this is not possible, surgery will be required. Pins, rods and screws will be used to secure the bones in the correct shape and alignment. Once healing is almost complete, these will be removed.

Once the bones are realigned, you will be treated in the same way as a minor fracture outlined above.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

Often, the answer to the question, how long does it take for a broken metatarsal bone to heal? will depend entirely on the quality of treatment you are receiving. NHS treatment is fine, but private treatment is better.

You may not realise that there may be a range of private medical services that are free for you to claim in your area. If you give us a quick call, we will let you know almost immediately if we think there is any free private treatment for a broken metatarsal in your area.

Caring for Your Broken Metatarsal at Home

Broken metatarsal healing time is fairly long compared to other fractures. You may need to keep your cast on for up to 12 weeks. Full recovery could take several months. How you care for your own injury has a great effect on how long it takes to heal fully. Once you get home, follow these tips below to care for your broken metatarsal:

  • Your doctor will offer some guidance on how much weight you can put on your injured foot, and how long you should wait before trying to walk on it. Make sure you follow this guidance.
  • Keep your cast dry, as getting it wet could cause it to soften or even come off altogether.
  • For the first few days, try to keep your damaged foot raised above the level of your heart to keep swelling down. The best position for this is laying down with your foot propped up on a couple of cushions.
  • If the skin of your foot changes colour, your cast is too loose or too tight, or the pain is still significant after a few days, then be sure to visit your doctor again right away.
  • Towards the end of your recovery, talk to your doctor to find out if there are any exercises you could be doing to prepare for your cast coming off.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

You might be eligible for some free treatment in the form of medical supplies. For example, some custom-made crutches that are better than those given out by the NHS.

Call us now, and we can find out if you have access to any free medical supplies in your area, we can let you know within a minute.

Follow Up for a Broken Metatarsal

Once you have been treated at the hospital, you will have to arrange for a check-up during your healing. This is to ensure that none of the complication symptoms of a broken metatarsal is evident.

You will have to visit the hospital several times during the time your foot is healing, initially to check how the healing is going, and then later, to prepare you for rehabilitation once your cast is off.

How Long Does a Broken Metatarsal Take to Heal?

No matter which metatarsal bone you break, the healing time will be the same. 5th metatarsal fracture healing time is the same as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

Generally, it will take up to 12 weeks for your fracture to heal fully. However, most pain and discomfort should have dissipated several weeks before, and you should be able to get around on crutches if your doctor allows it.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

One of the most serious side effects of a fractured metatarsal is that you will be unable to walk for several weeks. During this time, your foot and the leg which has the injured foot will become weakened. Once you take off your plaster cast, it may take some time to build strength and be able to walk properly. Private physiotherapy would be an excellent augmentation to your NHS treatment to get you back on your feet faster.

You may be able to claim some free physiotherapy in your area. If you want to find out, all you need to do is give us a call, and we can let you know if there is free physio in your area immediately.

What is the Prognosis for a Broken Metatarsal?

Although a broken metatarsal is a dilapidating injury, which will keep a person from walking for several weeks, the long-term prognosis is good.

As long as the foot is rested and allowed to heal correctly, in general, a person will be able to continue with their normal life after at most, 12 weeks. Although rehabilitation may take several months and involve physiotherapy to get the foot and leg functioning again properly after being inactive for so long.

There is the possibility that complications will set in, or the bones will not set properly. Infection is also fairly common where corrective surgery is used to realign bones before setting them. However, this is seldom a serious infection and is generally dealt with using antibiotics.

Overall, most people who suffer a metatarsal fracture return to a fully active life. The bone may be weakened meaning it is more likely to break again in the future, although not significantly so.

What are the Possible Complications of a Broken Metatarsal?

For broken metatarsal injuries, such as a 3rd metatarsal fracture healing time could be extended due to one or more complications setting in. With regard to a fractured metatarsal, there are two complications that are by far the most common, and these are:

  • Rotation – this occurs when the two parts of the bone have been aligned ready to heal, but they then rotate slightly, meaning they knit together in this misaligned format. This leads to the bone healing crookedly.
  • Nonunion – this occurs when the two parts of the bone are unable to begin the healing process, as they are too far apart to begin kitting together.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

Although NHS doctors are generally very good, they can and do make mistakes from time to time. You may suspect that you have been treated incorrectly, or that you have not been treated in an optimal manner to ensure you recover as swiftly as possible. For example, you may suspect that your fractured 3rd metatarsal healing time has been too long, due to not receiving the proper treatment for your injury. To confirm your suspicions, you need to educate yourself. These websites below give far more detailed information that this short guide:

Metatarsal Fracture Information – The Dudley Group of Hospitals

Guide to Foot Pain – NHS

Ankle and Foot Fracture Information – Barts Health NHS Trust

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Broken Metatarsal?

Although in general, most people recover from a metatarsal injury with no lingering effects, there are two common long-term effects that could occur:

  • Arthritis – this would tend to occur in metatarsal fractures that involve the joint with the toe bone. As the joint heals, bone scar tissue damages or scrapes away the cartilage of the joint. This can lead to pain in the joint and swelling in the future. In minor cases, arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication or even surgery.
  • Altered gait – this is a side effect of the metatarsal bones healing crookedly (through rotation). If the deformity of the bone is quite significant, it will change the shape of the arch of the foot and throw off balance. This can lead people to walk with a permanent limp, although there is no pain.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

If you have recently suffered a broken metatarsal, we might be able to help you gain access to some form of free medical care. This could be in the form of a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report. It could be in some form of free medical supplies, such as crutches, or a fractured metatarsal boot. It could even be in the form of some free private physiotherapy to get you up and walking as quickly as possible.

There are many private medical treatments available free, and these are generally available based on the location that you live. If you give us a call, we will be able to tell you if there is any free private health care available in your area.