A broken heel bone is also known as a calcaneus fracture. Calcaneus is the scientific name for the heel bone and a fracture of this area refers to a break in the back of the foot.
The heel bone plays a role in transferring pressure and weight bearing forces from the ankle of the foot to the ground while you are standing, walking and running. Certain activities, such as sports activities, that require frequent jumping and pounding of the heel bone from a height may place excessive stress on the heel bone. When the stress is beyond what the heel bone can withstand, the bone will break. This condition is called a calcaneus fracture.
Signs and symptoms
Patients with broken heel bone often experience a sudden sharp and intense pain in the heel area at the time of injury. This will result in difficulty walking, causing the person to limp in an attempt to move without stressing the affected heel bone.
Additional symptoms of broken heel bone include bruising, swelling and pain when you firmly touch the affected region of the foot. Pain may aggravate with movement of the ankle or foot, particularly while standing, walking or running on uneven surfaces and while wearing shoes. Patients describe broken heel bone pain as being similar to numbness or pins and needles in the toes and foot.
Your health care practitioner may diagnose your heel fracture through X-rays and will recommend treatment and rehabilitation depending on the severity of the damage to the heel bone. Avoid rehabilitating the injured bone yourself; make sure you perform exercises under a trained professional’s supervision, such as a physiotherapist from iPhysioPerth, to avoid further injury. Consult your doctor and a physiotherapist about what treatment methods and exercises will suit you best.
- Relieve symptoms with RICE
Follow the RICE method to alleviate symptoms: Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. Rest involves staying off your foot to promote healing. You must ice the affected region using an ice packed wrapped in a towel to reduce swelling. Compressing the injured joint using elastic gauze will also help. Lastly, elevate the affected heel above heart level as much as possible to encourage circulation and reduce swelling. Your health care provider may apply a cast or splint as well to promote further healing and prevent stress of the injured heel.
- Begin moving the foot
Only begin moving the foot once you have consulted your health care practitioner. The required movement may depend on the type of break and whether surgery is needed. You can begin moving once pain has subsided from the initial injury, or when the surgeon says that it is safe for you to walk after recovering from surgery, if surgery was required for your progress. Making small movements will help your muscles accommodate enough strength to begin weight bearing again.
- See your physiotherapist
You may not be able to start weight bearing immediately after recovering from the fracture, and it is here that Happy Physio can help. Our experienced and friendly physiotherapists will develop a rehabilitation plan that is tailored to your specific injury, goals and situation. Happy Physio physiotherapists can show you how to safely perform exercises to strengthen and condition the muscles around the affected heel without causing any complications. It is ideal to perform range of motion exercises as directed by your Happy Physio physiotherapist, ensuring you are aware of what exercises can be done safely at home and when.
- Perform non-impact activities
Once your physiotherapist says it is safe for you to start non-impact exercises, you may begin to do so. However, it is imperative to note that broken heel injuries are often very severe and need to be handled with care. Therefore, you must avoid applying excessive weight to your heel right at the beginning of your rehabilitation to allow the heel to adjust and heal with time. You can perform activities like riding a stationary bike or swimming under your Happy Physio physiotherapist’s consent.
Any fracture or injury is concerning and limiting and we see very many diverse injuries at Happy Physio. We understand the interruption a severe injury, such as a broken heel bone, can present to your life and as such consider your healing to be of the utmost importance. Assessment and rehabilitation programs are the fastest, most effective and most beneficial methods of improving your health and getting you back on track to performing well in normal daily activities, sport, work and leisure.
If you are worried about a broken heel bone and would like advice or are seeking a rehabilitation program following surgery please contact Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359. We will be more than happy to discuss and organise safe exercises and guidelines to assist your progress as soon as possible.