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What Is the Navicular Bone?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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The term navicular bone tends to refer to a bone at the top of the foot, located in close proximity to where foot and ankle meet. While most people will now accept this as the location of the bone, a bone in the wrist, most often called the scaphoid bone, used to be called the navicular too. It’s still possible to find mention of fractures of the navicular that are really referencing wrist fractures.

The wrist is not the only possible bone fracture site, and there are plenty of ways for the navicular bone to become injured. Blunt trauma, especially as caused by heavy things rolling onto the top of the foot may cause fracture of the bone. Some suggest that this bone is prone to stress fractures, and it therefore may be particularly common as an injury site among athletes. The bone may be affected by osteoporosis, resulting in greater risk of stress fractures, but a high number of navicular fractures also happen in teens.

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Injury to the navicular bone may result in a variety of symptoms depending on severity. People could have difficulty putting weight on the foot, and pain could spread across the top of the foot, making it hard to bend the foot in an up and down motion. When such symptoms are present, especially if injury is suspected from trauma or high activity levels, people should see a doctor to get diagnosis. Treatment of fracture can include casting and sometimes surgery if the bone is severely displaced or broken.

What makes this matter confusing is that some people have what is called an accessory navicular bone. Essentially, this is an extra bone that is located on the inside portion of the foot, at approximately the arch, and it is in addition to the standard navicular at the top of the foot. The navicular and its accessory, when present, connect together with cartilage, and this can occasionally pose some problems.

Some people injure the cartilage between the two bones, with painful consequences. Walking and taking each step may become very difficult. The arch may be especially pained by this, and even without injury, some people report painful arches that may be caused by the accessory navicular bone. Others don’t experience this and walk without pain for life, but if people have an accessory, which most often develops in females, they may need to eventually treat it.

In some instances the best treatment is to remove the accessory navicular bone. This can end pain when walking, though several weeks’ recovery time and some physical therapy could be required after the surgery. Other people manage problems with a painful accessory bone by using over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.

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Discuss this Article

pharmchick78
Post 3

Did you know some people are actually born with an extra navicular bone, called an accessory navicular bone? This foot abnormality is congenital, and usually doesn't cause a whole lot of problems.

In fact, it is easy to mistake an accessory navicular bone for an enlarged single navicular bone, but it is easy to see the difference on an X-ray.

Most of the times an accessory navicular bone won't cause any problems, but if they do occur, it's likely to be foot pain and swelling around the ankle. This can look somewhat like ankle tendonitis, so it can take a while for doctors to come up with a diagnosis of navicular bone pain.

However, it's easy to fix -- the majority of problems can be treated non-surgically, but if the navicular bone pain continues, an easy surgery can clear it up.

pleats
Post 2

What could be some causes of navicular bone pain other than trauma? And would that bone pain manifest in the same way as a calcaneus fracture? I have a long history of heel bone pain combined with ankle tendonitis, so I'm more than familiar with these kinds of issues, but I'm always wanting to learn more.

Can anybody enlighten me?

Charlie89
Post 1

Often times horses have problems with their navicular bone too. A horse may favor the leg that's having the problem, and the horses hoof may appear unusual as well.

Other signs of problems with the navicular bone in horses are lameness, signs consistent with arthritis, and in the case of a serious condition in which the navicular bone actually splits (this is called a bipartite navicular bone) long-term gait problems.

Although many horses recover from navicular bone problems, some unfortunately never turn up sound again.

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