Broken foot - what's better than crutches?
July 21, 2014 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I have a fracture in my 5th metatarsal - no surgery, no cast, no splint, but strict orders to stay entirely off it (no toe-touch for balance, no resting weight on my heel even though it's fairly painless). I'm on standard crutches. Getting around is annoying, doing my job also awkward. What other mobility assistance might be useful - knee scooter? hands-free crutch?

Today is my first day back at work since I broke my left foot about a week ago. The first doctor I saw was super-hasty and I felt I kind of got a brush-off, he prescribed staying off it, didn't specify when I should start driving or go back to work, just "let the pain be your guide to your activity level". Of course, if I did that, I'd be using my heel for balance, but he strictly forbade any such thing, the left foot is not to touch the ground for 4 weeks, I go back for more x-rays, and probably another 4 weeks on crutches still. The only really useful thing he did for me was give me a referral to a foot specialist, but that's not till Friday.
My house has steep narrow stairs that I have to take a couple of times a day (bathroom) and I've started using an ace bandage for support of my good knee, as that's pretty tiring even when I hang on the bannister. My job involves a few hour/day of sitting at a computer (yay!) but also several hours of standing around a lab table, maneuvering through fairly tight spots around the lab; fortunately I can get help with the bending and lifting, but still the space is set up poorly for somebody who can't stand/walk.
I was considering buying either a knee scooter or a knee crutch. Maybe someone who's used one can comment on what's best for mobility, standing for long periods, maneuverability, etc? A reason I should prefer one over the other? The scooter might be easier to find brick-and-mortar, and would be helpful for lab, except maybe for not fitting; the knee crutch looks ridiculous and unstable, but might actually be useful on stairs.
posted by aimedwander to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For stairs, scooch up/down on your bum. Sit on the stairs, use your hands and your right foot to push your bum up to the next stair, bring your foot up a step, and repeat. It's not classy or quick, and it's annoying, but it's way easier on the other leg for stairs you have to navigate several times a day (my experience: a similar issue with a very sprained ankle a few years ago).
posted by brainmouse at 9:53 AM on July 21, 2014

My experience with stress fractures is that they heal in their own time. You may actually be fine to put weight on your heel. Wait until after your Friday appointment before you purchase anything. Let the pain be your guide is really the best advice. My daughter suffered two stress fractures before school let out and is still on crutches. Her pain is too much to even put weight on her heel. Her bones have a tendency to take a bit longer to heal than normal. The main thing is, you don't want to turn the fracture into a break.
posted by myselfasme at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2014

Oh my sympathies. That's the exact metatarsal I broke too.

Someone else in the office I worked with at the time had a knee scooter, and I used that once or twice just in the office (I had a moon-boot thing and a cane otherwise). It was pretty manueverable (any near-collisions I made were my own problems steering), but check how wide one would be before figuring out whether it could navigate everywhere in your lab. It was also kind of satisfyingly fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on July 21, 2014

Sounds like you might have a "Jones fracture" of the fifth metatarsal due to the fact that you can't bear any weight? I broke mine, but it was not a Jones fracture, and so I was basically able to put walk on it right away, and only had to wear a stiff boot. I did a lot of wheeling around the house on a desk chair anyway.

To answer your question, I would get a knee scooter before I got the knee crutch. The knee crutch looks like a neat contraption, but it also looks like it would be easy to lose your balance and give yourself another injury...
posted by bennett being thrown at 10:15 AM on July 21, 2014

They couldn't put you in a stability boot?

I broke my left 5th metatarsal a few years back and I would have been lost without the boot. Crutches majorly suck. Next time you see your doc, ask why he didn't put you in a boot and see if he'll do it. Made my broken-footed life heaaaaps easier.

Depending on your insurance you can probably get a discounted price on a knee scooter so long as your doc writes you a prescription for one.

What is it about foot bone doctors that makes them suck so much?!? The guy who treated mine wrote in his patient report that I'm deaf. I'm not deaf. I sat there conversing with him for the entirety of the .03 seconds he spent pretending to care about my foot. You may have to be extraordinarily insistent to get anything more than a cursory exam from your doc.
posted by phunniemee at 10:17 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding the advocacy for the stability boot (aka the "Moon boot" or what I called mine, "The Robocop Boot"). However, the degree and severity of your fracture could affect whether it's a good option - my own doctor (who actually was awesome) said that whether we went with the boot and a cane vs. crutches and "no weight on your foot at all" depended on how bad the fracture was and whether there was any pain when I walked. In my case, we tried me in the boot and a cane and it worked, so we were good to go.

If he tried you on a boot first but there was still pain when you put weight on your foot, then that may be why he went up to crutches. In which case - yeah, your doctor's advice trumps ours.

One mobility tip for stairs - when you are going upstairs, the advice I got was to lead with your good foot, and when going downstairs, lead with the bad foot (or in your case, the crutches). The mnemonic I was given for that was "up with the good, down with the bad".

The web site Broken Beauties is a great catch-all resource - it's mainly a catalog for comfort/mobility things for people with broken bones, but also has a section of advice for "how to cope with broken bones". Give that a look.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2014

You need a high stool to sit on in the lab if at all possible, preferably one with wheels. Talk to your boss and HR at work to see if they can make this accommodation for you.

I suggest you buy brand new running shoes with excellent support and a good insole (such as Superfeet) to help with knee pain and your next ailment, which is likely plantar fasciitis. Go to a real running shoe store and have them make the shoe recommendation for you based on your specific use case.

I coughed up $$$ for a real knee brace for patellafemoral pain syndrome complete with the hunks of metal to stabilize knee cap, it helped.

Unfortunately in your state getting up and down from the floor is a problem but I would see what you could do for massage of glutes, quad, hamstring, IT band on standing leg. A tennis ball might work on a bed, foam roller on the bed is sketchy. Stretching the standing leg should be a priority.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter if you have crutches or a knee scooter. You cannot stand on one leg four hours a day. You need an ergonomic assessment at work and a stool.

For me personally, I might just stick with the crutches. They are easier to store. In a tight lab, you might just choose to hop around supported by the counter anyways. Buy crutcheze and a leak proof Thermos coffee mug and you can carry your own beverage. A knee scooter is large, can't hop a curb, can't go upstairs, and can't go as fast as you swinging through on crutches. I imagine it would be less helpful getting in/out of the toilet as well.

Four weeks on one leg is fine if you have stools/chairs everywhere, including kitchen and bathroom at home. Sit the hell down and make your work accommodate you.

Good luck
posted by crazycanuck at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2014

Best answer: I've had that exact break three (yes, three) times. There are indeed different kinds of metatarsal fractures, and when they say no weight, it's serious business. It heals so much faster and better if you're very good about putting no weight on it at all, even when you're in a boot.

This last time, I got a knee scooter, and though it had a learning curve and looked a little ridiculous, it was by far the most mobile I've ever been with a broken foot. Highly recommended. Note: Wear the most supportive shoe you can find on your good foot; this whole business will be hard on it.

Even with the scooter, sit as much as possible, elevating the broken foot at least on a stool. For stairs, I went with the bum scoot method. Not fun, but workable. Around the house (and possibly your lab?), I got quite good at rolling backwards (in only works backwards) while sitting on a wheeled stool or office chair and pushing with my good foot, leaving my hands free.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've unfortunately have extensive experience with the iWalk you linked to. I was non- weight bearing for 10 weeks and used it the vast majority of time instead of crutches. It takes a little bit of practice to get your balance, and it seems that I'm smack dab between adjustment holes for height - one is too high and the other is too low, so my gait isn't quite as smooth as the testimonials in their video online. Nonetheless, it's way better than crutches.

I have to admit that going *up* stairs is much easier than down with it (you need to go down facing backward so your foot doesn't catch on the stair above you), and it sucks having to take it on and off to sit down.

Agreeing with the others, that life would be better if you had a CAM walker (the ski boot). You probably wouldn't even need the one that goes to your knee - just mid-calf. They are a pain in the ass, but the support makes a huge difference. Definitely get yourself to a foot specialist sooner rather than later.

I've been dealing with a partially torn Achilles' tendon since December - and likely looking at more surgery, so the foot thing has gotten really old.

BTW, these crutches are worth every penny.

Feel free to memail me with any questions. Feel better!
posted by dancinglamb at 8:53 PM on July 21, 2014

I had a Jones fracture. It was terrible re: mobility - see my previous question for that. I used an office chair as a knee support to do anything where I had to stand for a while (cooking, etc). Remarkably, I did not hurt myself doing so.

I had a miserable time until I got Das Boot (stability boot everyone's mentioned), which made my quality of life zoom. Augh, having your mobility limited is terrible; I wish you the best.
posted by quadrilaterals at 1:15 AM on July 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, all for the advice. I spent large portions of the day yesterday skating around in a rolley chair, which was great for getting around a room, but unfortunately OSHA takes a dim view of riding furniture up and down the long hallways. A coworker recommended the RollerFoot, but I decided that was out of my price range, even though it looks like the ideal solution for what I'm doing (aside from the stairs).
My end solution is that I've gotten a knee scooter off Craigslist for $100 (and will doubtless return it to Craigslist for $100) that I'm using at work, but I'll keep using crutches at home, because my house is too narrow and twisty and stair-filled for the scooter to be much use. Moving it in and out of cars I will be able to handle on my own with practice, but even getting it up the 3 steps at my front door I can't imagine doing without help, so it's not a great universal mobility device. (I say this more as a "product review" for any future broken-footed people) If I could've found a knee crutch I might have tried it, but the scooters are more easily obtained.

For the morbidly curious - it's not a crack, it's not a Jones; from a quick google images search, my x-rays are about halfway between this and this. And I'm off to see a non-ER foot specialist in 2 more days (so no need to chide me about getting to a doctor ASAP!)
posted by aimedwander at 6:59 AM on July 23, 2014

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