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Everything You Need to Know About Stress Fractures







Breaking a bone is never fun, and when you break a foot bone, it can drastically impact your daily life. While there are many types of fractures, a stress fracture is a common problem. In some cases, the symptoms can be so minor that you don't realize there is a fracture. If you would like to know more to better protect yourself and your family, keep reading.

What Causes a Stress Fracture?

In most cases, a stress fracture is caused by physical activity. You may increase your risk of a stress fracture if you suddenly increase the intensity or the frequency of your activity. For example, if you have been inactive for years and suddenly start running daily, the sudden increase in activity could be enough to create a crack in the bone (like a cracked windshield in a car).

Another reason you may experience a stress fracture is that you may not know the right technique for your activity. If, while running, you land incorrectly on your foot repeatedly, causing extra pressure on one part of the foot, it could cause a stress fracture.

Improper equipment and changes in the surface you exercise on can also increase the risk of a stress fracture. For example, even if you are in shape and have been running for a long time, the sudden change from a treadmill to hard pavement can be enough to cause a fracture.

What Can Worsen Your Risk of a Stress Fracture?

A few factors may increase your risk of a stress fracture. For starters, women are more likely to get stress fractures than men. Similarly, people with lighter skin may have reduced bone density due to a lack of Vitamin D.

Physical features that could increase your risk of stress factors include: high foot arches, limb length discrepancies, a history of these types of fractures and anyone who may have bone density problems, including women who are menstruating and people with low calcium intake.

If you are physically inactive, you may also have tight or weak muscles. This can also increase the risk of a stress fracture because the bone ends up doing too much work to make up for the inadequate muscles.

What Are the Symptoms of a Stress Fracture?

Stress fractures are often small, so it may be harder to identify a stress fracture compared to another type of fracture. In fact, the pain may go away or decrease when you rest the foot. The pain typically worsens when you use the foot, such as for walking or driving, and, at the site of the fracture, it is usually tender to the touch, with localized swelling as well.

If you do believe you have a stress fracture, please see your foot and ankle specialist. Although your doctor may be able to tell your foot is broken with a physical examination, it is highly recommended to obtain an X-ray to view the bones and look for any hairline fracture. Sometimes, this fracture is not seen for a short while after occurrence, so an x-ray needs to be combined with an exam from a physician who has the experience of diagnosing these types of fractures.

How Is a Stress Fracture Treated?

Until you can get to the doctor, you should follow the rules of RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Following these steps will help reduce swelling and pain. If you are experiencing pain, it is usually minimal and can be controlled with over-the-counter medications. Acetaminophen is the ideal choice over anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

Treatment usually involves keeping off the foot and keeping the foot stationary to heal. Depending on the severity of the fracture, you may or may not need a cast. If the fracture is severe, you may need surgery to insert plates and screws to better stabilize the foot.

Stress fractures are common, but they are also usually easy to treat. In some cases, you may just need to rest the foot until the bone heals. If you would like to know more, or if you believe you may have a stress fracture, contact us at the Ankle & Foot Clinic of Everett.

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