We rely heavily on our feet when taking part in everyday activities, and for doing our job. But workers injure their feet at the workplace every single year, leaving them in pain and in need of medical treatment.
Experienced NY orthopedic surgeons discuss these common conditions
Here are some common foot injuries seen at work – and how an orthopedic surgeon can help.
The Lisfranc joint complex consists of the tarsal bones (bones in the midfoot) and the metatarsal bones (bones in the forefoot). A Lisfranc fracture occurs when one or more of the metatarsal bones are displaced or fractured, and there are usually also injuries to the ligaments that stabilize the joint.
A Lisfranc fracture can happen in many different ways. Workers in construction, manufacturing, or warehouse settings may be at risk of having heavy objects fall on their feet. Accidents involving heavy machinery or equipment can lead to crush injuries to the foot. Workers can slip, trip, or fall in the workplace or suffer an injury involving vehicles.
A severe Lisfranc fracture may require surgery. In open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), a surgeon realigns the fractured bones and secures them in place using screws, plates, or wires. In some cases, if the joint is severely damaged or unstable, fusion surgery may be performed to permanently fuse the bones together to stabilize the foot.
Stress fractures in the foot are tiny cracks or hairline fractures in the bones that occur due to repetitive stress or overuse. Stress fractures develop over time as a cumulative response to repetitive forces on the bones.
In the workplace, stress fractures in the foot can occur in workers who have jobs that involve prolonged periods of standing or walking on hard surfaces. Workers whose jobs require repetitive foot movements, such as those involving assembly line work, can also suffer stress fractures. Workers who carry heavy loads are also at risk.
Surgery may be required for stress fractures in the foot if more conservative treatment does not work. Injured workers may also need to undergo a structured physical therapy program to help improve function.
The heel bone is the largest bone in the foot and plays a crucial role in supporting body weight and facilitating movement. Heel fractures can range from hairline fractures to complete breaks, and can cause significant pain and difficulty.
Workers can suffer a heel fracture by slipping and falling, being struck by a falling object, getting their foot caught in heavy machinery or equipment, jumping or landing from a height, or in a vehicle accident.
Surgery may be needed in cases where there is a displaced fractures, comminuted fracture, or open fracture. The goal of surgery is to restore the normal alignment of the heel bone and promote healing. The injured worker may then need to wear a brace or walking boot for a period of time.
This condition involves inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. The plantar fascia acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of the foot during weight-bearing activities. When this tissue becomes irritated or inflamed, it can lead to plantar fasciitis.
Workers in jobs that require prolonged standing on hard surfaces, such as retail workers, assembly line workers, or healthcare professionals, are at a higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Jobs that involve repetitive foot movements, such as walking or running on hard surfaces, can also contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis may involve the use of orthotic devices and night splints, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Injured workers may also require physical therapy. Corticosteroid injections are needed in some cases. Surgery is rare.
Bunions are bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe, where it joins the foot. They develop when the big toe is pushed against the adjacent toes, causing the joint to become misaligned and the bone to protrude outward. Bunions are a progressive condition that can become more prominent and painful over time.
Jobs that require prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces can put stress on the feet and toes, contributing to the development of bunions. Certain jobs that involve repetitive foot movements, such as bending or squatting, can also strain the toe joint and lead to bunions.
In some cases, surgery may be required. A bunionectomy involves removing the bony bump (bunion) and realigning the joint and bones in the affected foot. Injured workers may need to use crutches or wear a protective boot during the healing period.
Talk to a doctor about your work-related foot injury
At IMC Bone Doc, our experienced doctors treat workers who have been injured on the job. Each of our seven New York offices has state-of-the-art equipment and licensed physical therapists ready to work with you. If you suffered a workplace foot injury, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.