The bone that makes up the heel is called the calcaneus. If you jump from a height, or land awkwardly on the heel, this bone can break.
The fracture often extends into the joint under the ankle joint and the calcaneus bone can be flattened, altering how you put weight on your feet and trapping tendons.
The long term consequences of this are pain in the joint, pain under the heel and pain around the tendons on the outer side of the ankle. The contours of the heel are changed and can make shoes difficult to fit.
Long term pain has been shown to be related to the amount the joint fragments have shifted from each other. However, treatments frequently practiced do not result in any decrease in the pain or stiffness. They do, however, help with the shape of the foot, and make any future surgery, if necessary, more straightforward.
Some studies have concluded that operating on the heel bone is fruitless, but there are concerns about how reliable these studies are.
If you have a fracture of the heel bone, you should see an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in problems affecting the foot and ankle, so that you can have the best possible advice and treatment.
To evaluate your heel bone fracture properly, a CT scan is required. This will allow better scrutiny of the fracture configuration, and the shift of joint fragments of bone. If there is a possibility that surgery can improve the position of the bones, then your surgeon will inform you of this.
How is surgery performed?
I perform surgery using a series of small cuts in the skin. This allows the introduction of steel pins which can be used to manipulate the bone fragments to a better position. Once this is achieved, the fragments are held in place with screws, also introduced through small cuts in the skin.
This method means that fractures can be treated very soon after injury, when fragments are still mobile.