Heel bone (calcaneous) is not easy to break. A significant force, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall from a height is usually the cause for heel fractures. If the heel is fractured, you will experience pain and inability to bear weight. The pain may be on the outer side of the ankle or, it may be focused in the heel pad. Your foot may become swollen and stiff. To avoid severe complications, it is imperative to see a physician immediately.
If the bones have not been displaced by the injury, a conservative treatment may be sufficient:
- Elevate the foot above the level of the heart and wrap it in a compressive dressing to keep the bones from shifting.
- Apply ice packs for 20 minutes every hour or two to reduce swelling and pain.
- A splint may be needed for up to 3 weeks until the swelling goes down.
- Do not put any weight on your foot until the bone is completely healed, which takes at least 6 weeks, and perhaps longer.
If the bones have shifted out of place (a displaced fracture), surgery will be necessary. A metal plate, screws or a bone graft are used to hold the bones in place and aid in healing. A splint is applied after surgery. The recovery process is slow. You should keep weight off the foot for up to 10 weeks and after you begin walking, you may need to use a cane.
It may take up to a year for the injury to heal completely. Even after recovery, you may continue to experience stiffness and you may need to wear a heel pad or shoes with extra depth in the toe compartment.