“My foot is sore and difficult to walk on, should get an x-ray?”
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve had this question as a whether it’s at the clinic or friends asking over dinner or at the pub. Foot pain is really frustrating because it’s easily aggravated by your everyday activities. But on the flip side, it’s hard to justify staying off your feet if you haven’t actually had a foot injury confirmed.
The easiest way to determine a serious (or non-serious) foot injury is to have your foot assessed by a qualified health care professional who knows what to look for.
However, if you want a sneak peak into what we look for when assessing foot injuries, so you can spot some of the signs yourself, then read on.
Four signs that you need to have a foot X-ray:
As clinicians we have simple guidelines that we follow for when we need to send someone for an x-ray and foot pain is no different.
1.The four-step rule
If you’re unable to weight bear for four steps straight after the injury occurred and still can’t do this during a physical examination without the use of crutches, then this is a sign that you probably need to get an X-ray. Any injury that isn’t a fracture will allow you to bear weight for at least a short walk, so not being able to do this is a pretty sure sign that something more serious is going on.
2.The 5th metatarsal
If the four-step rule applies to you AND you’re experiencing bone tenderness at the base of the 5th metatarsal (the bone on the outside part of your foot) then an X-ray is definitely your next step. Even if you can weight bear but you’re having some pretty heavy issues with your 5th metatarsal than it’s worth having an X-ray to rule anything out.
3.More bone tenderness
Tenderness on the 5th metatarsal isn’t the only bone tenderness you need to watch out for. If you experience tenderness on the navicular bone (the bone on the inside part of your foot) by itself or in conjunction with either or both of the first two signs, then you should get yourself in for a foot X-ray.
4.Trust your gut
Sometimes you may not be presenting with any of the above signs, or maybe you’re just a little unsure if your pain or tenderness is ‘serious’ enough. If something is feeling off and you don’t think it’s ‘normal’ then it’s definitely worth having it checked out – even if the clinician just gives you a clean bill of health, it’s worth the trip to the Physio to ease your mind.
The main thing to remember is that it’s not your job to know if you need a foot X-ray, it’s ours. So while you can apply the above signs while you’re at home, you should always come in for a check-up. As physio’s we know when to send you off for a foot X-ray, whether we know for sure that something serious is wrong, or whether we’re just confirming whether or not there is a small fracture or bone issue with your foot.
Either way, the X-ray results will guide us on your treatment plan – or let us know that it’s 100% safe to give you a clean bill of health.