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How To Treat Fifth Metatarsal Fractures

The fifth metatarsal is the long bone on the outside of each foot that connects to your pinky toe, and it is one of the most commonly fractured bones in your foot. Repetitive strain or direct trauma are two of the most common causes of a fifth metatarsal fracture, and treatment will vary based on a few different factors. Below, we take a closer look at fifth metatarsal fractures and explain how Dr. McDonald can help you treat these injuries.

Types Of Fifth Metatarsal Fractures

Fifth metatarsal fractures are categorized based on where the fracture occurs along the metatarsal bone. The three fracture types are:

The Avulsion Fracture – These fractures make up the vast majority of fifth metatarsal fractures (>90%). This occurs when a small piece of bone is pulled off the metatarsal by a tendon or ligament, and oftentimes occurs during a severe ankle sprains.

  • The Jones Fracture – A Jones fracture occurs when a specific area of the metatarsal that receives less blood than other areas fractures. Because of this limited blood supply, a Jones fracture may not heal as easily as other types of fifth metatarsal fractures. Oftentimes the result of overuse or repetitive stress, a Jones fracture is more difficult to treat than the more common avulsion fracture.
  • Dancer’s Fracture – The final type of fifth metatarsal fracture is known as a dancer’s fracture or midshaft fracture. This type of fracture occurs at the metatarsal head and neck, and is often the result of significant trauma or twisting to the foot.

As we alluded to above, overuse and repetitive strain on the foot are two of the most common causes of fifth metatarsal fractures. Because of this, the injury is fairly common in athletes, dancers and people who spend a lot of time on their feet. People with abnormally high arches (as this puts excess pressure on the outside of your foot) and those with chronic ankle instability are also at a higher risk for fifth metatarsal fractures.

Besides pain and discomfort, fifth metatarsal fractures tend to present with bruising, swelling and tenderness in the area of the fracture.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Fifth Metatarsal Fractures

If you suspect that you have suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture or similar foot injury, head to a foot specialist. They’ll begin by asking about your symptoms, conducting a visual and physical assessment of the foot, and taking a closer look with the help of an x-ray, MRI or CT scan.

Most avulsion fractures can be treated successfully with conservative care, and since the vast majority of fifth metatarsal fractures are avulsion fractures, that means most people who suffer this injury will be able to avoid surgery. And while your individual treatment plan will be developed based on your specific fracture, your age and your activity level, many people can recover from a fifth metatarsal fracture with a combination of:

  • Immobilization
  • Activity avoidance
  • Footwear modifications
  • Over-the-counter pain medications

You may also want to consider physical therapy exercises after healing has progressed to help strengthen the immobilized area and expand your comfortable range of motion, especially if you’re hoping to return to athletics in the near future. In all, avulsion fractures tend to heal well in about 6-8 weeks.

In the event that you suffered a Jones fracture or a dancer’s fracture, or the fracture is displaced to the point that it is unlikely to heal on its own, your provider may recommend surgery. Surgical hardware will be inserted to ensure healing occurs as expected, and the hardware will remain in your foot once full healing has occurred. Healing after surgery takes about 7-10 weeks, but your provider can give you a specific recovery timeline based on your unique fracture and operation.

For more information about fifth metatarsal fractures, or to talk with a foot specialist about a different issue you’re dealing with in your foot or ankle, reach out to Dr. McDonald’s office today at (860) 244-8889.

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