Heel (calcaneus) fracture

Last update: 27 August 2021

Heel (calcaneus) fracture

The calcaneus, or heel bone, accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of all fractures. A heel fracture, unlike other common injuries, can have serious implications if left untreated.

The calcaneus is the bone that forms the rear of the foot, together with the talus. These two bones sustain the body’s weight when they are joined together.

The calcaneus is also the bone that is closest to the ground. As a result, it’s not unexpected that this bone, which is only a few centimetres long, can sustain a tremendous amount of weight.

The location of the calcaneus, on the other hand, makes it extremely susceptible in the event of a rapid and strong impact.

The heel fracture is particularly difficult to diagnose due to its rarity. This is incompatible with the severity of long-term consequences like osteoarthritis.

It’s critical to understand how to detect a heel fracture so that you can treat it promptly.

Heel fracture symptoms and complications

On the surface, a heel fracture seems to be similar to other types of fractures.

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased tenderness in the affected foot
  • Inability to bear weight or pressure
  • Severe pain 
  • Significant swelling of the foot and ankle
  • The presence of a hematoma

A heel fracture, unlike a regular fracture, needs a significant amount of force to form. As a result, it may be followed with knee or spine fractures.

The close proximity of the heel bone to the foot’s complex joint system might cause extra issues and troubles.

These are some of the warning signs:

  • Cartilage breakdown
  • Inability to move the joint
  • Impaired blood flow
  • Compartment syndrome (compartmental)

An untreated heel fracture can lead to joint issues such as arthritis in the long run.

Tissue damage and even death might occur if the swelling limits the blood flow to the foot for an extended period of time.

Causes and risk factors

In most cases, a significant impact is required to produce a heel fracture. This is why falls are the most common cause of injury.

Other occurrences, however, can result in calcaneal fractures:

  • A road accident
  • Repeated practice of a sport (stress fracture)

Certain diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis are also risk factors.

Preventing a heel fracture

Because a heel fracture generally develops as a result of a severe collision, it appears to be extremely difficult to avoid.

There are, nevertheless, a number of preventive methods that can help to minimize the number of fractures:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Adopting a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Gradually increasing the amount of physical activity you do
  • Warming up and stretching properly before and after physical activity
  • Wearing shoes adapted to your morphology and the type of effort you make
  • Consulting a podiatrist if there is an abnormality of the arch of the foot such as a flat foot or a hollow foot

A heel fracture is not the same as a typical bone fracture. If left untreated, it might lead to significant problems.

If you suspect a heel fracture as a result of a sudden collision, take the following steps:

  • Avoid leaning on the injury
  • Apply cold to the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible

Healing from a heel fracture

The treatment of a calcaneal fracture might be difficult at times.

In every situation, a detailed diagnosis is required to establish the degree of the harm and the root of the problem.

The following steps are usually included in a fracture diagnosis:

In the event that the fracture does not affect the joint, the following therapeutic measures may be considered: 

  • Compression or immobilization of the foot with a splint or cast
  • Physical therapy following cast removal and immobilization
  • Custom foot orthotics to promote faster healing

More severe therapies may be explored if the heel fracture has caused bone fragment displacement or has damaged the surrounding joints.

The majority of these therapies are geared for hospital-based orthopedic surgery.

Complete recovery from such a major operation might take many months. To offer optimum relief to the foot, it may also be necessary to wear a protective boot and utilize a cane.

A heel fracture is a tough and sensitive condition to treat. Especially since such an accident might have a negative impact on the sufferer’s quality of life.

As a result, it’s critical to see a podiatrist or other health expert as soon as the symptoms develop.

PiedReseau – Learn more

Are you interested in learning more about foot fractures? We have a lot of material on this subject!

Despite the fact that the PiedReseau website is an excellent resource, nothing matches a clinical consultation with a podiatrist.

Take care of your feet, they’re precious!

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