A fracture (or broken bone) is a disruption or break in the bone. Some fractures, called stress fractures, are microscopic, and restricting activity on the limb that is broken can usually treat these.
Fractures can be classified in several different ways. Among the major classes are:
- "Torus" or "greenstick" fractures, in which the bone is not broken all the way around. These usually occur in the bones of children, which are less brittle than those of adults.
- Breaks in which the bone is broken all the way around but one piece is not displaced (moved away from) the other piece. These usually occur in mature, adult bones.
- Breaks in which the bone is broken all the way around and displaced. Displaced fractures usually require surgery.
- Open versus closed fractures. In an open fracture, the bone has protruded through the skin.
There are five metatarsal bones in the foot, each of which travels out to one of the five toes. The metatarsals connect with the tarsal bones in the hindfoot (rear of the foot) and the phalanges (toes) in the front of the foot. There are several kinds of metatarsal fractures, including stress fractures, more acute fractures, and multiple fractures of any of the five metatarsals.
Stress fractures (hairline breaks) are common in the metatarsals. They are usually caused by repetitive stress. Other metatarsal fractures typically occur after a direct blow to the foot or a trauma such as a fall or automobile accident.
Causes of metatarsal fractures include:
- Training errors (in athletes) such as too rapid an increase in a runner’s mileage
- Stress caused by another foot problem such as bunions
- Abnormal foot structure such as flat feet
- Poor shoes
Symptoms associated with metatarsal fractures include sharp pain that is aggravated by walking, swelling, and tenderness. Acute fractures may result in an inability to put weight on the foot, swelling, and more severe pain. Even acute fractures usually have little displacement when they occur in a metatarsal bone. Ecchymosis, or discoloration of the skin, occurs from bleeding of the fracture and is accompanied by swelling.