If I suspect I may have a Jones fracture, should I see my doctor or will it heal on its own?
Foot fractures are pretty common. One out of every ten broken bones occurs in the foot. That statistic sounds more reasonable when you consider that each foot contains a total of 26 bones. Of that number, five are the metatarsals which are the long bones that make up the body of the foot. Each is connected to a toe and is numbered, with number one being right behind the big toe and the fifth one corresponding to the little toe.
We put a lot of pressure on the outside of the foot and fractures to the fifth metatarsal are common. They are usually caused by the trauma of a direct blow to the foot or from forceful twisting motions made in sudden changes in direction. This is why they are so common among athletes, dancers, and those involved in similar activities.
The Jones fracture is a break in the fifth metatarsal, in a specific area between the base and shaft of the bone. A fracture in this particular spot on the fifth metatarsal is considered the most serious. Although the Jones fracture is less common than other fractures of this bone, healing is more difficult and takes longer due to a more limited blood supply.
Symptoms of a Jones Fracture
Anytime you think you may have broken a bone in your foot, it is important to stop whatever activity you are involved in and consult with your healthcare professional. If you experience the following symptoms, there is the possibility that you have sustained a Jones fracture:
- Bruising or discoloration
- Pain, typically sharp and stabbing, along the outside of the foot
- The outside of the foot may be extremely tender when touched
- Painful when standing or putting any weight on the foot
Treatment Options for a Jones Fracture
When deciding on treatment for a Jones fracture, your orthopedic surgeon will consider several factors. These include:
- Age and overall condition of health
- Severity of the break and likelihood of it healing properly without surgery
- Lifestyle and activity level that the patient wants to return to
- Whether the fracture occurred in the setting of a slowly developing stress fracture
Some people will opt for conservative treatment to avoid any surgical risks and discomfort following a surgical procedure. This will typically include immobilization of the foot in a boot and the use of crutches. The disadvantage to this course is that it takes longer, up to eight weeks in the cast, and because of the limited blood supply, there is only a 75 percent chance that the fracture will heal. Additionally, there is a greater chance of refracture even if the bone heals.
Those who are more active, especially athletes, are recommended to choose the surgical option. The procedure typically involves placing a screw in the bone crossing the fracture using a mini incision. In some cases, a bone graft may be required. Patients can typically place weight on the foot a few days after the surgery.
Not only is the recovery time much shorter with surgery, but it is also considered a more predictable way of healing for a Jones fracture.
If you have questions about a foot fracture or any other foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with Ortho-Care Wayne in Bergen County New Jersey and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC.
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