Signs and Symptoms of Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are little, hairline breaks in the bone, or incomplete breaks in the bone. Stress fractures are typically due to continual, repetitive stress on the bone. Athletes frequently suffer from stress fractures. In fact, up to 15% of all sports injuries are stress fractures. They also may be due to an irregular foot structure, a deformity, or osteoporosis. Inappropriate shoes can also be a factor in developing stress fractures.
What are the symptoms of a Stress Fracture?
The symptoms of a stress fracture may include, but are not limited to:
- Pain during or following regular activity. The pain typically stops when the activity ceases and continues when the activity is resumed.
- “Pinpoint pain” on the top of the foot when it comes in contact with something, such as when you touch it (this pain will be felt at the site of the stress fracture)
- Swelling without any bruising at the site of the pain
- Pain with palpation of the bone
You should not leave a stress fracture untreated. A stress fracture can become worse or even reappear after you think you have gotten rid of it.
How is a Stress Fracture diagnosed?
Your podiatrist will exam your foot and take x-rays to help in diagnosing a stress fracture. An MRI, Ultrasound, or occasionally even a bone scan may be necessary when diagnosing a stress fracture as well.
What are the treatment options for a Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures in the feet are often found in the calcaneus, which is the heel bone, and in the metatarsal bones. The metatarsals are the long bones located in the middle of your foot. Some fractures in the metatarsal bones can be tricky to treat, but treatment is critical if you don't want the stress fracture to return. Treatment for a stress fracture depends on the severity of the break.
Treatment may include:
- Rest. Rest is very important in healing a stress fracture. For minor cases, rest may be the only necessary treatment.
- Steer clear of the activity causing the pain. Stress fractures are typically caused by repetitive stress from a particular activity. It is important to stop participating in that activity until your fracture is healed.
- Immobilization, casting, or a medical shoe. A surgical shoe or a cam walker boot are forms of immobilization that may be used to protect the fractured bone to give it time to heal. Crutches or a wheelchair are sometimes used in addition to prevent any weight being placed on the foot while the fracture is healing.
- Surgery. In serious cases, surgery may be required. Stress fractures are treated conservatively first and are usually healed with time and immobilization.
- Follow-up care. Your podiatrist will provide you with instructions for care following your treatment plan. Your podiatrist may recommend physical therapy and stretching exercises to speed up your recovery and help you return to your everyday routine.