5th Metatarsal Fracture
(Also known as a Fractured 5th Metatarsal, Base of 5th Metatarsal Fracture, Avulsion Fracture of the Base of the Fifth Metatarsal, Jones Fracture)
What is a 5th metatarsal fracture?
A 5th metatarsal fracture is a relatively common condition characterized by a break in the long bone situated at the outer aspect of the foot known as the 5th metatarsal (figure 1).
Figure 1 – Relevant Anatomy for a 5th Metatarsal Fracture
The foot comprises of many small bones, 5 of which are the long bones known as the metatarsals which are situated beside each other. The 5th metatarsal bone lies on the outer aspect of the foot and forms joints with the 5th proximal phalanx and the cuboid bone (figure 1).
During certain activities such as landing from a jump, a forceful impact to the outer aspect of the foot or when rolling an ankle, stress is placed on the 5th metatarsal. When this stress is traumatic and beyond what the bone can withstand a break in the 5th metatarsal may occur. This condition is known as a 5th metatarsal fracture.
A 5th metatarsal fracture is relatively common among the elderly, but can also occur in the younger patient. Often a fracture of the 5th metatarsal occurs in combination with a sprained ankle or other fractures of the foot, ankle or lower leg (such as following trauma).
5th metatarsal fractures can vary in location, severity and type including avulsion fracture, stress fracture, Jones’ fracture, displaced fracture, un-displaced fracture, spiral fracture, greenstick, comminuted etc.
Causes of a 5th metatarsal fracture
A 5th metatarsal fracture commonly occurs in association with a rolled ankle, particularly when the ankle has rolled inwards and when significant weight bearing forces are involved. They may also occur due to an awkward landing from a jump (particularly on uneven surfaces), due to a fall or following a direct blow to the outer foot. 5th metatarsal fractures are common in running and jumping sports involving change of direction such as football, soccer, rugby, basketball and netball and in dancing (e.g. ballet).
Signs and symptoms of a 5th metatarsal fracture
Patients with this condition typically experience a sudden onset of sharp, intense outer foot or ankle pain at the time of injury. Sometimes the patient may have heard an audible snapping sound at the time of injury. The pain often causes the patient to limp or be unable to weight bear so as to protect the foot. Pain is usually felt at the outer aspect of the foot or ankle and can occasionally settle quickly leaving patients with an ache at the site of injury that may be particularly prominent at night or first thing in the morning.
Patients with a 5th metatarsal fracture may also experience swelling, bruising, stiffness and pain on firmly touching the affected region of bone. Pain may also increase during certain movements of the foot or ankle or when standing or walking (particularly up hills or on uneven surfaces). In severe 5th metatarsal fractures (with bony displacement), an obvious deformity may be noticeable. Occasionally patients may also experience pins and needles or numbness in the ankle or foot.
Diagnosis of a 5th metatarsal fracture
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is essential to assist with diagnosis of a 5th metatarsal fracture. An X-ray is usually required to confirm diagnosis and assess the severity of the fracture. Further investigations such as an MRI, CT scan or bone scan may be required, in some cases, to assist with diagnosis and assess the severity of the injury.
Treatment for a 5th metatarsal fracture
Prognosis of a 5th metatarsal fracture
Patients with a 5th metatarsal fracture usually make a full recovery with appropriate management (whether surgical or conservative). Return to activity or sport can usually take place in weeks to months and should be guided by the treating physiotherapist and specialist. In patients with severe injuries involving damage to other bones, soft tissue, nerves or blood vessels, recovery time may be significantly prolonged. In patients with only very minor fractures that are un-displaced (such as an avulsion fracture) return to sport can sometimes occur in as little as 6 – 8 weeks as guided by the treating physiotherapist.
Physiotherapy for a 5th metatarsal fracture
Other intervention for a 5th metatarsal fracture
Exercises for a 5th metatarsal fracture
The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with a 5th metatarsal fracture following confirmation that the fracture has healed or that pain free mobilization can commence as directed by the surgeon. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms.
Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms.
Foot and Ankle Up and Down
Move your foot and ankle up and down as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 2). Repeat 10 – 20 times provided there is no increase in symptoms.
Figure 2 – Foot and Ankle Up and Down (left leg)
Foot and Ankle In and Out
Move your foot and ankle in and out as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 3). Repeat 10 – 20 times provided there is no increase in symptoms.
Figure 3 – Foot and Ankle In and Out (right leg)
Foot and Ankle Circles
Move your foot and ankle in a circle as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 4). Repeat 10 times in each direction provided there is no increase in symptoms.
Figure 4 – Foot and Ankle Circles
Rehabilitation Protocol for a 5th Metatarsal Fracture
Physiotherapy products for a 5th metatarsal fracture
Some of the most commonly recommended products by physiotherapists to hasten healing and speed recovery in patients with this condition include:
- Protective Boots
- Ankle Braces
- Ankle Supports
- Ice and Heat Packs
- Wobble Boards (for rehabilitation)
- Dura Discs (for rehabilitation)
- Resistance Band (for strengthening)
- Sports Tape (for protective taping)
To purchase physiotherapy products for a 5th metatarsal fracture click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.
Find a Physio
Find a Physiotherapist in your local area who can treat a 5th metatarsal fracture.
- View more Ankle Stretches.
- View Ankle Strengthening Exercises.
- View more Leg Stretches.
- View more Leg Strengthening Exercises.
- View Balance Exercises
- View detailed information on How to use Crutches
- View detailed information on when to use Ice or Heat
- View detailed information on initial injury management and the R.I.C.E. Regime.
- View detailed information on Choosing a Shoe.
- View detailed information on Do I Need Orthotics?
- View detailed information on a Return to Running Program.
- View detailed information on Return to Sport.
- View detailed information on Ankle Taping.
- View our Foot Diagnosis Guide.
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A 5th metatarsal fracture is a relatively common condition characterized by a break in the long bone situated at the outer aspect of the foot known as the 5th metatarsal. Following appropriate fracture management (usually determined by an orthopaedic surgeon), assessment and treatment by a physiotherapist is vital for an optimal outcome.
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