Navicular Bone

The navicular bone plays an important role in maintaining the arch of the foot and ensuring stability during weight-bearing activities like walking and running. Problems with the navicular bone can lead to significant discomfort and hinder mobility. This article aims to provide an understanding of the navicular bone, its role in foot health, and the importance of imaging in diagnosing navicular bone problems.

What Is the Navicular Bone?

The navicular bone is located in the midfoot.  The navicular bone is located on the inner side of the foot, positioned between the talus and the three cuneiform bones. Its central location connects the ankle to the forefoot, playing a key role in maintaining the arch of the foot.

Anatomy of the Navicular Bone

To understand its importance, it helps to know the anatomy of the navicular bone:
– **Position:** Found on the inner side of the foot, it serves as a bridge between the talus (ankle bone) and the three cuneiform bones of the midfoot.
– **Articulation Points:** The navicular bone forms joints with five other bones, allowing complex movement and stability.
– **Tuberosity:** A bony protrusion that provides a crucial attachment point for the posterior tibial tendon, vital for arch support.

Function of the Navicular Bone

1. **Maintaining the Arch:** The navicular bone plays an important role in supporting the longitudinal arch of the foot. Its location helps distribute weight evenly across the foot during walking or running.

2. **Shock Absorption:** It acts as a shock absorber by supporting the foot’s structure when it makes contact with the ground. This function minimizes the risk of injury and wear to other bones.

3. **Stabilizing the Foot:** The navicular bone, by providing an anchor point for tendons and ligaments, stabilizes the foot’s posture, contributing to balance during movement.

Common Navicular Bone Issues

1. **Navicular Stress Fracture:** Common among athletes, a navicular stress fracture typically results from repetitive impact or overuse. It manifests as pain along the inside of the foot and can lead to limping or inability to bear weight.

2. **Accessory Navicular Syndrome:** Some people are born with an extra piece of bone known as the accessory navicular. If this bone fragment becomes aggravated or irritated, it can cause pain and swelling.

3. **Köhler’s Disease:** Mostly affecting children, Köhler’s disease involves a temporary loss of blood supply to the navicular bone, leading to avascular necrosis. Symptoms include pain and tenderness, often accompanied by limping.

Diagnosing Navicular Bone Problems

Diagnosis begins with a clinical evaluation of symptoms, followed by imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI. These images help detect fractures, inflammation, and other abnormalities.


Accurate imaging is important for diagnosing navicular bone conditions, as many disorders present with similar symptoms. The navicular bone’s position in the midfoot makes it susceptible to various injuries and conditions, each requiring a different diagnostic and treatment approach. Here’s a closer look at the imaging techniques used to diagnose issues in the navicular bone:

**X-Ray Imaging**

– **Overview:** X-rays are a standard initial imaging tool for diagnosing navicular bone issues. They produce detailed images of the bone structure and reveal fractures, degenerative changes, or structural abnormalities like accessory bones.
– **Benefits:** X-rays provide a quick, cost-effective overview of the bone’s alignment, density, and structure. They are useful for detecting traumatic fractures or bone misalignments.
– **Limitations:** Despite their usefulness, X-rays may not detect stress fractures and soft tissue injuries.

**CT Scans (Computed Tomography)**

– **Overview:** CT scans offer a more detailed, cross-sectional view of the navicular bone than X-rays, producing three-dimensional images of the bone and its surrounding structures.
– **Benefits:** CT scans excel at detecting stress fractures that might be missed on an X-ray. They are also valuable in evaluating complex fractures, revealing fractures which are not seen on X-ray, and visualizing the full extent of injury.
– **Limitations:** CT scans expose patients to higher radiation levels than X-rays, and they might not provide detailed soft tissue information.

**MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)**

– **Overview:** MRI scans use magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of bones and soft tissues, like tendons and ligaments, associated with the navicular bone.
– **Benefits:** MRI is particularly helpful in diagnosing stress fractures, as well as soft tissue conditions like tendinitis. It can detect bone bruises, cartilage abnormalities, and signs of inflammation that indicate early bone injury.
– **Limitations:** MRI can be more expensive and time-consuming than other imaging methods, and it requires the patient to remain very still during scanning.

**Ultrasound Imaging**

– **Overview:** Ultrasound uses sound waves to create real-time images of soft tissues around the navicular bone.
– **Benefits:** Ultrasound is a non-invasive, radiation-free method that can visualize tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues. It is often used to diagnose conditions like posterior tibial tendon dysfunction or tenosynovitis that might affect the navicular bone indirectly.
– **Limitations:** While ultrasound is excellent for soft tissue evaluation, it lacks the ability to detect bone abnormalities effectively.

**Bone Scintigraphy (Bone Scan)**

– **Overview:** Bone scintigraphy involves injecting a small amount of radioactive tracer into the bloodstream. Areas of increased bone metabolism, such as fractures, will attract more of the tracer and appear brightly on the scan.
– **Benefits:** Bone scintigraphy can identify stress fractures and early signs of injury that other imaging modalities might miss. It’s useful for cases where patients present with unexplained bone pain.
– **Limitations:** This technique is less specific and requires complementary imaging, such as MRI or CT scans, to confirm the findings.

**Imaging Guidance for Treatment**

Advanced imaging techniques can also guide interventions:

– **Injection Therapy:** Ultrasound imaging can guide corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation around the navicular bone or its associated tendons.
– **Surgical Planning:** MRI and CT scans help orthopedic surgeons plan accurate and effective surgical interventions by providing precise anatomical details.

Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment for navicular bone issues ranges from conservative to surgical:

1. **Rest and Immobilization:** For mild stress fractures, resting the affected foot and wearing a cast or boot for a few weeks allows the bone to heal.

2. **Physical Therapy:** Strengthening exercises improve muscle support, while stretching reduces tension on the posterior tibial tendon.

3. **Orthotic Devices:** Custom shoe inserts help redistribute pressure on the arch and prevent future issues.

4. **Medication:** Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain and swelling.

5. **Surgery:** In severe cases, surgical intervention might be necessary to remove bone fragments or stabilize the navicular bone.


The navicular bone plays an important role in supporting the foot’s structure and biomechanics.  Imaging plays an important role in diagnosing abnormalities of the navicular bone.  If you have foot pain or suspect an abnormality of the navicular bone, consult your doctor for further guidance.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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