The specific symptoms associated with a fracture of either the foot or ankle can vary depending on the type of fracture and its location. Most foot and ankle fractures are associated with pain, usually significant and becoming worse when weight is placed on the foot. In addition to localized pain, symptoms can include swelling near and around the fracture, pain that radiates into the leg or knee, numbness or tingling near the fracture site and radiating to other parts of the foot or leg, reduced range of motion and sensations of instability when attempting to use the foot. In most cases, the area immediately surrounding the injury site will also be tender and may be red or warm to the touch.
Diagnosis begins with a physical evaluation that can include a visual examination as well as palpation of the injury site and sometimes passive movement to determine what triggers pain and help pinpoint the structures that are involved. Patients will also be asked about their activities immediately prior to first noticing their symptoms. Diagnostic imaging of the foot using x-rays or MRI will be used to provide in-depth information about the type and extent of the fracture as well as the surrounding tissues to help determine the best approach to treating the injury.
Once the imaging results and physical examination of the foot or ankle have been performed, a treatment plan will be determined that also takes into account the lifestyle habits and medical history of the patient. Treatment options can include casting, splinting or bracing for mild to moderate fractures, with surgery being reserved for more severe fractures. Before casting or splinting is performed, the fracture may need to be reduced, or gently manipulated to allow displaced bones to resume their normal positions.