Overview on fractures of the calcaneus

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The calcaneus is a big bone forming the base of the rear aspect of our foot. It is linked with the cuboid bones and talus. This connection amidst the talus and calcaneus forms the subtalar joint which is essential for normal foot functioning.

The calcaneus has a thin, durable shell externally and a soft, sponge-like bone on the inside. Once the exterior is damaged, the bone has the tendency to collapse and becomes fragmented. Due to this, fractures of the calcaneus are considered as severe injuries. In addition, since it affects the joints, there is possibility for lasting consequences such as chronic pain and arthritis.

Abrupt heel pain and inability to bear any weight on the affected foot.

How does it occur?

It is important to note that most cases of calcaneus fractures are due to traumatic events – falls from a height or vehicular accidents where the heel is crushed on the floorboard.

The fracture can also occur with other forms of injuries including an ankle sprain. In uncommon cases, it initially develops as a stress fracture from overuse or repetitive strain on the heel bone.

What are the indications

A fracture involving the calcaneus triggers a variety of symptoms depending on whether it is a traumatic type or stress fracture. Generally, the indications might include:

  • Abrupt heel pain and inability to bear any weight on the affected foot
  • Swollen or inflamed heel area
  • Bruising of the ankle and heel

If due to a stress fracture, it might include generalized discomfort in the heel region that slowly develops along with swelling.

Managing a fracture on the calcaneus

The treatment for a calcaneal fracture is based on the form of fracture and seriousness of the injury.

In some cases, conservative measures might be used such as:

  • RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) – it is vital to rest by staying off the affected foot to allow healing to take place. The application of ice helps in minimizing the discomfort and swelling. Compression is applied using an elastic bandage or compression stocking while elevation involves raising the foot slightly above the level of the heart to reduce the swelling.
  • Immobilization – in some cases, the injured foot is placed in a cast or boot to prevent movement of the fractured bone. Crutches should also be used to avoid bearing any weight.

As for traumatic cases, surgery is required. In such instances, reconstruction of the joint is carried out or even fusion. The doctor will decide on the ideal surgical approach for the individual.

Whether conservative or surgical measures were used, physical therapy often has an important role in restoring function and strength.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on fractures of the calcaneus is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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