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The Broken Heel Bone: Can It Heal Itself?

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Bones & Joints related image via Unsplash

While I have had my share of foot issues, such as hammer toes, bunions, and generally fatigued and aching feet, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain one must sustain when a heel bone has been broken. Since so much of our weight is put upon that part of our body, it makes me cringe to just think of the pain involved when the heel bone is fractured.

The heel bone, also known as the calcaneus, is the foundation for the back end of the foot. According to Foot Health Facts, it has been compared to a hard-boiled egg, due to its thin, hard shell covering over a softer, spongier bone on the inside. When the outer shell is broken, much like a cracked egg, the bone will collapse and fragment. Understandably, a fracture of the heel bone is a very serious issue, and if the fracture also involves the joints, you are potentially at risk for developing arthritis later on or experiencing a lifetime of chronic pain.

Heel fractures usually result from a traumatic injury, such as falling from a significant height or injuring the bone in a car accident. These calcaneal fractures may also occur as a result of an ankle sprain and recurring stress on the heel bone.

Heel fractures may not always involve the joints, but when they do, these are the most serious kinds of fractures, as they may also damage the connecting tissue between the bones. Recovery time for such an injury all depends upon the severity of the fracture.

As for the symptoms of a heel or calcaneal fracture, those largely depend upon whether the fracture is traumatic or stress-related. If it is a traumatic fracture, there will be sudden pain in the heel, and you will be unable to put any weight on it. The area around the heel and ankle will be noticeably swollen as well as appear bruised. If the injury is a stress fracture, you will probably notice pain in the area of the heel that progresses over time.

Of course, treatment of a broken heel bone will largely depend upon the type of fracture sustained and the severity of the fracture. Not all fractures require surgical intervention. For some, employing the RICE method is all that is necessary. This includes resting and staying off of the injured foot, applying a bag of ice covered with a lightweight towel over the injured heel, compressing or wrapping the foot in an elastic bandage, and then elevating the foot, preferably above the heart level, to reduce any swelling.

Some heel fractures may require that a cast or boot be used to keep the foot immobile as it heals. Crutches may also be an option to keep you from putting any weight on the affected foot. If the heel has been severely fractured, then the doctor will advise you on any potential surgical options to repair it. After the broken calcaneus has healed itself, physical therapy is presumably the next step, as you will need to regain strength in that foot and restore its function and mobility.

Certain complications can arise when you sustain a broken heel bone. For instance, arthritis may develop in the joint. Sometimes the bone may not heal properly and in its original position. A broken calcaneus bone may result in a decrease in ankle motion, causing you to walk with a slight limp, as the heel bone has actually collapsed somewhat, leaving that leg shorter than the other. You may also have problems with chronic foot pain or experience pain when walking, running or standing for appreciable amounts of time. Even some footwear may be difficult to wear. In an effort to treat some of these complications, additional surgery or the use of an orthotic device may be necessary.

As for the recovery time for a calcaneus fracture, you may need to keep your weight off of the affected foot for up to three months. The main purpose of treatment is to control the swelling, especially if you have had surgery on the heel. Elevation, immobilization and application of ice to the affected area are the key ways to control any swelling.



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EmpowHER Guest

Wtf why would you write that crap? "Yeah that was a good idea! I think I'll send it out now, to tell everyone about my bunions" smh

July 21, 2016 - 6:21pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.