Jones Fractures

Signs, causes & symptoms of a metatarsal fracture

Do you have pain, tenderness and swelling on the outside of your foot that makes it difficult to walk? You may have a Jones fracture, or a type of fracture that occurs at the base of the long, thin foot bone connecting your mid-foot to your toes called the 5th metatarsal.

Typically a result of inverting the foot or repeated stress and overuse, Jones fractures most commonly occur in athletes or individuals who spend a lot of time on their feet. With the help of an experienced foot and ankle specialist and a little patience, most patients diagnosed with a Jones fracture are able to fully heal their injuries and return to an active life.

What is a Jones fracture?

While fractures can occur anywhere in the foot or toes, a Jones fracture is a very specific diagnosis of metatarsal fracture injury, diagnosed according to the location and nature of the break. A Jones fracture is characterized by:

  • A horizontal or transverse (diagonal) break in the proximal fifth metatarsal bone. The break may be a hairline fracture or a complete separation.
  • The fracture is at the base of the bone, near the midfoot.

Jones fractures differ from an “avulsion fracture,” or a separation of a small piece of bone, which also occurs at the base of the midfoot. Avulsion fractures typically occur in tandem with ankle sprains, while Jones fractures typically do not.

How can a Jones fracture happen?

A Jones fracture is typically caused by trauma, as an acute injury—the bone breaks suddenly—or as progression from a stress fracture, which is a hairline fracture that worsens over time. Overuse or repetitive stress on the foot from sports such as running, football, or soccer can also lead to a Jones fracture.

How do I know if I have a Jones fracture?

Any of the following symptoms may indicate a Jones fracture. However, since other metatarsal fractures will have similar symptoms, it is key to see a qualified foot and ankle doctor for a diagnosis:

  • Pain, swelling, and pin-point tenderness in the outside of the foot
  • Inability to bear weight or difficulty walking on the affected foot
  • Visible bruising

How can a Jones foot fracture be treated?

The first step is to make an appointment with an experienced foot and ankle specialist. Our board certified orthopedic surgeons at Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine are highly experienced in treating Jones fractures using both non-surgical and surgical methods.

First, your doctor will examine your foot, review your medical history, and order an X-ray to confirm if and how the bone is fractured. In certain cases, they may request an MRI or other imaging test if the X-ray results are inconclusive.

Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of your injury and your activity level, as well what is necessary to get you back to the activities you enjoy.

Non-surgical treatments for Jones fractures

While most Jones fractures respond best to surgical treatment, in some cases, Jones fractures can be treated without surgery. Typically, this involves the “R.I.C.E.” treatment: rest, icing, compression (i.e. an ace bandage), and elevation, as well as one or more of the following:

  • Immobilization of the foot with a cast, walking boot, or removable brace
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  • A 6 to 8 week period of  limited weight bearing, in which you may need to use crutches

Surgery for a Jones fracture

In most cases of a Jones fracture,  surgery is recommended to place a screw or pin into the bone to hold it in place. This is done both to prevent re-fracture and to speed up the recovery time.

How long does it take for a Jones fracture to heal?

Due to the poor blood supply to this area of the metatarsal bone, Jones fractures usually take longer to heal than other foot fractures. In some cases, the fracture will not heal on its own; this is called “nonunion” and usually requires surgery to treat.

Your doctor will see you periodically during the healing process to measure your progress and determine when it is safe to resume walking, exercise and sports. Patience is key—doing too much too soon can re-injure the foot and result in even more time before you are able to get back to your normal activity level.

Contact us to learn more or make an appointment

Do you have a foot injury that’s keeping you from enjoying a full, active lifestyle? Our experienced team can help you get answers and find an effective treatment option. Please call 828-253-7521 or contact us today to make an appointment.