If you fracture the fifth metatarsal bone in your foot, it is called a Jones fracture. This bone is on the middle outside of your foot, connecting to your pinky toe. It is a very common injury but often heals slowly because of where it happens. Committing to your treatment plan is important in allowing the fracture to heal completely.
Understanding a Jones Fracture
If you have high arches on your feet, you’re at a greater risk for a Jones fracture. This is because higher arches don’t distribute your weight as evenly, putting added pressure on the outside of your feet.
Signs of a Jones fracture. Fracturing your bone means that you break or crack the bone. No matter where they happen on your body, fractures are painful. You may suspect a Jones fracture if your symptoms are localized to the middle outside of your foot behind your pinky toe.
Signs to watch for may include:
- Difficulty walking
In some cases, added pressure to the outside of your foot causes pain before a fracture happens. Talk to your doctor about any unexplained discomfort or pain that is persistent. You may be able to prevent a fracture by paying attention to your body and seeking help before your condition worsens.
Causes of a Jones fracture. Most often, a Jones fracture happens when you twist your foot. Added stress to this bone causes a break. High impact activities like running in a marathon are common contributors to Jones fractures.
Diagnosing a Jones Fracture
Most Jones fractures are visible on x-rays. If the fracture is small enough, it may not appear on x-ray imaging. In this case, your doctor may request an MRI for a more detailed picture of the bones in your feet and the surrounding tissue.
Because Jones fractures take a long time to heal, your doctor may request follow-up CT scans to monitor your healing. They can compare images to ensure the bone is healing correctly and making progress over time, even if it is slow progress.
Treating a Jones Fracture
If your doctor diagnoses a Jones fracture, they may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for more specialized care. They can often treat a Jones fracture without surgery, but it depends on the severity of your outer foot fracture.
Immobilizing your foot. The first step in treatment is often taking pressure off your foot to give it a chance to heal on its own. Your doctor may put a special boot on your foot that allows you to retain movement without too much pressure or weight on your fifth metatarsal bone.
Your doctor may prescribe the boot for up to six weeks. By that time, your foot should show signs of healing. If not, surgery may be necessary. In the meantime, you should treat your symptoms by taking a medication that alleviates pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Surgery for a Jones fracture. More serious fractures may also damage the surrounding ligaments, tendons and muscles in your foot. Surgery can help set your fifth metatarsal for the best outcome in healing.
This often includes placing a pin in your foot that holds the bone in place. The pin is permanent and doesn’t get removed once your fracture heals.
In some cases, you may need reconstructive surgery. This may include bone grafting or repairing the soft tissue of your foot.
Prioritizing rest. During these six weeks, you should follow the RICE protocol for treating foot injuries:
- Rest – The less pressure you put on your foot, the faster it will heal.
- Ice – Use ice to help with swelling and inflammation alternating between 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off as needed.
- Compression – Wrap your foot tightly to help limit swelling.
- Elevation – Try to keep your foot elevated slightly above your heart to reduce swelling and inflammation that may slow healing.
Surgical risks and complications. Jones fracture surgery is considered a safe procedure, but it is not without risks. All surgeries leave you at risk for complications like:
- Anesthesia complications
- Damage to your nerves or blood vessels
- Excessive bleeding
- Blood clots
If you play sports or have a physically demanding job, you may need to take eight or more weeks off. Talk to your doctor before returning to regular activities following a Jones fracture.