Navicular fractures can occur in the middle of the foot. They also occur in the wrist, as one of the eight carpal bones at the base of the hand is also known as the scaphoid or navicular bone.
A navicular stress fracture is an injury is often seen in athletes due to overuse or trauma. Navicular fractures tend to worsen over time and feel most painful during or after periods of exercise.
If you experience discomfort toward the middle of your foot or in your wrist, particularly after trauma to the area or overuse, speak with your doctor about obtaining a diagnosis. Without treatment the condition may deteriorate.
When your foot hits the ground, especially when you are sprinting or quickly changing direction, the boat-shaped navicular bone in the middle of your foot aids in supporting your body weight.
Repetitive stress to the navicular bone can cause a thin crack or break that gradually increases with continued use. Other risk factors include improper training techniques and consistently running on hard surfaces.
A navicular fracture can be difficult to detect because there are usually minimal outward signs of injury such as swelling or deformity. The primary symptom is pain in your foot when weight is placed on it or during physical activity.
Other symptoms may include tenderness in the middle of your foot, bruising, or pain that subsides while resting.
One of the eight carpal bones, the navicular or scaphoid bone in your wrist sits above the radius — the bone that extends from your elbow to the thumb side of your wrist.
The most common cause of a navicular fracture in your wrist is falling on outstretched hands, which might happen if you try to catch yourself when falling.
You’ll likely experience tenderness and pain in the affected area — the side of your wrist your thumb is located on — and have difficulty pinching or holding onto something. Similar to an injury occurring in your foot, it may be difficult to determine the extent of the injury, as outward signs are minimal.
If you believe you have a navicular fracture, visit your doctor promptly, as early treatment prevents further injury and reduces recovery time.
While X-rays are a common diagnostic tool for injuries to your bones, navicular fractures are not always easily visible. Instead, your doctor may recommend an MRI or CT scan.
Most treatment options for navicular fractures in your foot or wrist are non-surgical and focus on resting the injured area for six to eight weeks in a non-weight-bearing cast.
Surgical treatment is generally chosen by athletes wanting to return to normal activity levels at a faster rate.
If navicular fractures in the wrist are displaced or the fractured ends are separated, surgical treatment if often required to align the bone properly and bring the ends of the bones together to facilitate proper healing. Otherwise, a non-union where the bone doesn’t heal may occur or a process called avascular necrosis may develop.
Navicular fractures in the foot are generally a result of repetitive stress, whereas the injury in the wrist is generally caused by trauma.
If physical activity results in pain in the middle of your foot or in your wrist — even if the discomfort fades with rest — consult with your doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment plan that allows the fracture in the bone to heal.