If you've a got sharp pain in your foot, you might have a metatarsal fracture. Stress fractures in the metatarsals commonly occur from activities such as long-distance running and ballet dancing, while fractures that cross the entire bone usually happen with trauma, such as a fall. Stress fractures typically require a period of rest from the aggravating activity, whereas you might find your foot in a cast or boot after trauma.
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Exercises help maintain range of motion, strength and flexibility while recovering from a metatarsal fracture. Follow your doctor's advice about the metatarsal fracture rehabilitation exercises that are best for you.
Range of motion, stretching and strengthening exercises help restore function after a metatarsal fracture.
Improve Range of Motion
Ankle, foot and toe stiffness can develop after a metatarsal fracture, particularly if you spend time in a cast or boot. Depending on the severity of your injury, range of motion exercises might start as soon as two weeks after injury. If you are stuck in a hard cast, this can be delayed until four to six weeks after injury when your cast is removed. Perform range of motion exercises several times per day to decrease stiffness as part of your aftercare for a broken foot.
HOW TO DO IT: Draw the alphabet in the air, leading with your big toe. Repeat two times. Perform 10 ankle circles clockwise and then 10 counterclockwise.
These exercises should be performed in a pain-free range — pain can indicate that you are moving too far, too soon. Because damage to the surrounding soft tissues occurs with metatarsal fractures, progressing with movements too quickly can further damage blood vessels, muscles, tendons and nerves in your foot.
Read more: Ankle Range of Motion Exercises
Stretch It Out
Calf muscles can become tight after a metatarsal fracture, especially when you haven't been walking around much. Stretching exercises can be performed in a standing or sitting position. Standing stretches should not be performed until your doctor allows you to put weight on your foot.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit with the affected leg supported on a firm surface, with a towel wrapped around the ball of your foot. Holding one end of the towel in each hand, pull the foot forward until you feel a stretch on the back of the calf. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three to five times.
Read more: Exercises for Stiff Ankle After a Sprain
Rebuild Your Strength
Strengthening exercises typically begin four to six weeks after an injury or when your doctor determines that your broken bone has gained enough strength to tolerate added resistance. Exercises such as picking up marbles with your toes help strengthen smaller muscles in your foot. Use a resistance band to strengthen your ankle.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Wrap the band around the ball of your foot and hold one end in each hand. Push your foot down as if you are pushing a gas pedal. Hold for two to three seconds; then relax. Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
Read more: Ankle Inversion & Eversion Exercises
Return to Sport
Conditioning activities and sports-specific drills may begin as early as six weeks after injury. But, specific timing depends on how quickly your bone heals. These activities may include balance training such as jumping on one foot. Running and higher-impact activities may resume during this period as well — particularly if the injury was diagnosed and treated early.
Like all other exercises, conditioning activities should only be started when your doctor indicates that it is safe to do so. Inform your doctor of any increase in pain with exercises or swelling afterward.
Is This an Emergency?
- Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Rehabilitation of Stress Fractures in the Lower Extremity in Runners
- The Stone Clinic: Orthopedic Surgery & Rehabilitation: Fifth Metatarsal Fracture (Jones Fracture) Rehab Protocol
- American Family Physician: Diagnosis and Management of Common Foot Fractures