People usually tend to associate trauma with “blunt force.” This is certainly accurate, but trauma actually can refer to any kind of injury featuring a sudden onset.
These injuries frequently require immediate medical attention and are serious health concerns. Factoring all of this in, we can also consider burns and cuts to be forms of trauma as well.
Potential problems from trauma include severe pain, blood loss, and extreme tissue damage.
Although there are exceptions, we typically refer to injuries from trauma as being “acute.” These are different than “chronic” conditions, which are those that develop over time in response to repeated actions and forces. Chronic injuries include stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.
Of course, no matter what kind of foot or ankle problem you experience—acute, chronic, or anything else—you need to have it addressed at the earliest possible opportunity by a skilled, trained podiatrist like Bruce Scudday, DPM in El Paso!
When talking about physical trauma, a major source of injury is physical activity – and especially sporting activities. It is essential to be physically active for optimal health, but there’s a certain degree of injury risk from doing so. (Of course, the benefits of exercise considerably outweigh any injury risk!)
The most common sports injuries tend to be sprains, strains, and fractures.
With regards to bone fractures, it is important to keep in mind that bones are responsible for providing structure for your body. Accordingly, they only “give” so much before succumbing to excessive force.
Fortunately, our bodies have remarkable healing abilities – even when bones break. The key thing is to make sure they are in proper position to heal normally.
Whereas fractures (broken bones) tend to be fairly straightforward and self-explanatory, some people get confused by sprains and strains. Both may have similar-sounding names and actual similarity in the fact they are soft tissue injuries. The key distinction, though, comes down to the specific tissues damaged.
In the case of a sprain, a ligament—connective tissue attaching bone to bone—has been stretched beyond its intended range. A prime example of this is an ankle sprain. Ankle joints are supported by various ligaments. When a foot twists too far on the horizontal plane, it stretches the ligaments too far.
Strains, on the other hand, happen when muscles are stretched too far. For example, you can strain your calf muscle.
Specific sports injuries we see more often than others include plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles tendinitis, and turf toe. This list is not comprehensive, so make sure you come in for proper diagnosis and treatment if you start to experience foot or ankle pain and/or dysfunction following physical activity.
Basic First Aid for Trauma Injuries
Given that there are many different foot and ankle sports injuries one can sustain, it’s important to know first aid measures to tend to an injury. The best starting point for virtually any (nonemergency) sports injury is RICE therapy:
- Rest – Taking time away from physical activity not only allows the body to heal itself, it is also a vital step for protecting the injured area and preventing greater damage from occurring.
- Icing – This particular practice both relieves pain and reduces inflammation. When we include an icing regimen as part of your injury treatment plan, be sure to wrap the ice or ice pack with a thin towel to reduce the risk of damaging your skin!
- Compression – As with icing, compression is a great practice for reducing inflammation in the injured area. Be careful not to wrap a bandage too tightly and cut off circulation, though.
- Elevation – You can further reduce the amount of swelling and inflammation in an injured foot or ankle by elevating it above heart level. Doing so also forces you to rest, which is an important part of the healing process.
Whereas this is a good starting point, do not underestimate the value of medication, particularly anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. These medications can certainly help to relieve pain, but—perhaps even more importantly—they reduce inflammation in the affected area (which leads to faster healing).
Continue appropriate first aid measures until you are able to see us at our El Paso office for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Foot and Ankle Fractures
The feet and ankles are particularly complex biomechanical structures responsible for providing both mobility and stability for our bodies.
To accomplish those objectives, our lower limbs are comprised of a total of 52 bones (one-quarter of all bones in the human body) connected and supported by numerous ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Blunt force can often, but not always, lead to a broken bone. There are different types of fractures which can be sustained by physical trauma.
When a patient suffers from a broken bone, one of the first steps is to evaluate the extent of the injury and then give it an appropriate identification. Bone fractures can be classified as:
- Simple (or Stable) – A simple fracture happens in response to physical trauma and the broken pieces of the bone are lined up and will heal normally if kept stable.
- Compound (or Open) – Unlike a simple fracture, the pieces of bone in a compound fracture are not lined up in proper position to heal correctly. In some instances, a piece of bone will puncture the skin, and we refer to this as being an open fracture.
- Comminuted – In this case, the bone has shattered into three or more pieces and surgery is almost definitely necessary.
- Stress – Whereas simple and compound fractures often happen from an isolated source of physical trauma, stress fractures develop over time from an accumulation of forces. This is a fairly common overuse injury.
To properly diagnose which kind of fracture you have sustained, we will likely require an imaging test, like an x-ray, bone scan, CT (computerized tomography) scan, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
When it comes to treating bone fractures, the body does the majority of the heavy lifting, but we are responsible for ensuring that bones are lined up correctly and the area is stabilized.
The body repairs broken bones in three stages:
- Inflammation – This begins when the fracture happens and is a necessary stage for providing blood to the injured area. Once there, the blood begins to clot in order to provide an initial framework and stability as the body starts to produce new tissue.
- Bone production – In this second stage, clotted blood starts being replaced by cartilage and fibrous tissues, which, in turn, will be replaced with solid bone tissue.
- Bone remodeling – During the final stage, bone tissue develops and becomes dense and compact. At this point, circulation resumes to its normal levels.
Various factors play a role in dictating exactly how long the entire healing process will take. In most cases, a broken bone needs about 6 to 8 weeks for a significant degree of healing. Adult bones take longer to heal then children’s bones.
Some of the tools and techniques Dr. Scudday might use include buddy-taping, casting, stiff-soled shoes, crutches, medication, and other conservative care methods (rest, ice, elevation). In cases of a compound fracture, surgery might be needed to line up the broken bone pieces, so they heal correctly.
It is important to note that treatment for an open fracture should begin with seeking immediate medical care. Do not attempt to push the bone back inside the wound. Instead, try to control any bleeding, keep the area clean, and wait for trained medical personnel to arrive on the scene.
Professional Care for Trauma Injuries
No matter what kind of foot or ankle injury you sustain in response to physical trauma, you will be able to find the care you need here at the office of Bruce Scudday, DPM.
Dr. Scudday will use diagnostic tools and techniques to determine the extent of the damage, and then create a customized treatment plan for you based on his professional diagnosis.
For more information on this topic—or to request an appointment with our El Paso office—simply give us a call at (915) 533-5151 or connect with us online.