What to Do When your Foot is Sprained, Strained or Broken

We do daily activities that can hurt our foot, be it playing sports or simply losing our balance as we walk. Any of these can cause foot injuries like sprain, strain, and worse, fracture.

Our feet and ankles work in synchronicity to provide mobility and support to the body. However, there are instances when our position or movement puts them in uncomfortable position, stretching or tearing the muscles and/or ligament or worse, fracturing the bones.foot care

Identifying Sprain, Strain and Fracture

A sprain takes place when ligaments are torn. Ligaments are tough bands of fibrous tissues that connect the bones to each other inside the joints. Some of the ligaments may stretch and tear apart when the foot lands awkwardly. Sprain varies in severity, ranging from mild to severe. The symptoms of a foot sprain include tenderness and pain near the arch, top, bottom, or sides of the foot, swelling and bruising of the foot, difficulty bearing weight on the foot, and pain when walking or moving the foot.

A strain is an injury to the tendons and/or muscles. Tendons are fibrous tissue cords that connect muscles to the bones. Sometimes similar to sprains, strains can be a simple stretch in the muscle or tendon of the foot. However, in worse cases, it can be a partial or complete tear of the muscle and tendon. Symptoms of foot strain include swelling, inflammation, muscle spasm, pain, and cramping.

A fracture in the foot can be caused by so many ways such as falls, crush injuries, direct blows, stress, or overuse of it. There are various types of foot fracture depending on the part that is broken or cracked. These include stress foot fracture and full foot fracture. A stress foot fracture is a small crack in the bone, which usually happens when one tries a new activity such as an exercise routine.

A full foot fracture, on the other hand, is subdivided into two types – closed or simple foot fracture and open or compound full foot fracture. A closed foot fracture means that only the bones are damaged while the latter means that damage to the skin as well as the surrounding tissue of the injury site are also present. Symptoms of a broken foot or fracture include pain in the foot that increases while you bear weight and severe as time goes by even if you are in a steady or resting position, tenderness of the ankle or foot, bruising of the ankle, foot or other areas of the foot, and swelling along the outside of the ankle and the top of the foot.

Ways to Treat Foot Sprain

The easiest way to remember how you should attend to a sprained foot or ankle is through the mnemonic device RICE.


After spraining your foot, make sure not to do any movement and keep it still. Have a companion carry you indoors so you can rest your injured foot.


Get an ice pack and put it on the affected area. Do not apply ice directly to the skin of your foot as it can cause cold burn.


To prevent your sprained foot or ankle from further injury, it is better to wrap it around and elastic bandage. Make sure it is tight enough to hold it firmly but loose enough to allow your foot to breathe.


Make sure that your sprained foot or ankle is elevated. Raise it higher than the rest of your leg and cushion with a pillow for support. This will promote better blood circulation, which reduces the swelling.

Ways to Treat Foot Strain

First aid treatment for foot strain is also similar to the first aid for foot sprains. Perform the RICE method and take over-the-counter pain relievers like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.

Ways to Treat Foot Fracture

Broken foot requires medical attention and sometimes even calls for surgery. Besides the rice method, using splints to protect the broken foot further is necessary. In most cases, the doctor puts a cast or protective brace which last about 6-8 weeks. You may also be advised to wear protective footwear.

In cases where surgery is required, fasteners like screws, pins or plates are used to provide the necessary support for the injured bone to heal and align properly. When recovering from surgery, it is best to follow your doctor’s advice to quicken the healing process. You may even be recommended to use traditional crutches while you are recovering so you don’t stress your broken foot with your body weight.

Points to Note

Sprains, strains, and fracture of the foot or the ankles manifest similar symptoms. This is the reason why it is advisable to only follow the RICE method as first aid treatment. One still needs to be taken to and evaluated by a doctor afterwards to rule out possible fracture, which requires other treatments. Do not, by any chance, try to pull your ankles in the hopes of aligning it back especially if you aren’t sure about what you are doing. Also, never massage the injured foot at it will only cause increased swelling and bleeding contrary to what most people think.

When recuperating from any of these foot injuries, you have to allow your foot to rest and avoid rigorous activities. As a matter of fact, even a simple thing like standing on your injured foot, which seems harmless can further aggravate your condition and prolong your recovery. Following the advice of your doctor is always the safest way to deal with an injured foot. Just keep your patience for the recovery period usually takes some time, some even lasting up to 6 months.

Initially, when the swelling and pain has subsided, you can start trying to walk slowly on your own and without the aid of crutches. However make sure that you keep the bandage on until the doctor tells you to take it off. You then gradually increase your physical activity until your sprained, strained or fractured foot is back to its maximum strength.

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