What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a small but painful crack in a bone. They can occur in just about any bone in your body. However, a common place for them to rear their ugly head is in the feet. The reason for this is that they are associated with activities like jumping and running. 25% of stress fracture cases in adults are in the feet, the metatarsal bones to be more exact.

The causes of a stress fracture

Many different things can cause stress fractures. Finding out about the more common causes may help you decide whether you have a stress fracture or not. A common reason for stress fractures to develop is the starting of a new activity or exercise. Basically, if your body isn’t used to an activity and you go in all guns blazing, it can lead to a stress fracture. This can also happen if you suddenly increase the intensity of your workout. They can also occur when there is a repetitive motion present, in sports like rowing or cricket, for example.

For reasons that science do not currently understand, stress fractures are more common in women than men. This might be because these women do not have regular menstrual cycles and it is the reduction in oestrogen. They are also more common in teenagers because their bones are not fully hardened yet. If you have had a stress fracture before, you are 60% more likely to get another one. Again, this isn’t something that science understands just yet.

The symptoms of a stress fracture

The symptoms you experience with a stress fracture may vary from person to person. However, a likely symptom to have is pain in and around the area. This pain will likely get worse as you walk, run or exercise. You may also notice some swelling and redness at the site of the fracture.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a stress fracture normally starts with a physical examination. This examination will help the doctor locate the exact site of the pain; they will then perform an x-ray of the area. Although x-rays can help, they do not always detect a stress fracture. If an x-ray doesn’t show a stress fracture, your doctor may send you for an MRI scan or another form of imaging technique to diagnose your issue.

Treatment of a stress fracture

Typically, the treatment for stress fractures will start with elevating your foot and resting it until the bone heals itself. You can also use ice packs on the area for 24-48 hours to reduce the swelling; painkillers will also help this and reduce the pain. Depending on which bone has a stress fracture, you may also need to wear a cast or a splint to stop any movement for awhile.

When the swelling and pain has gone down, you might be able to begin putting pressure on your foot again. This will be decided by your doctor; they might decide that you would benefit from the use of crutches for a few weeks. Normally, you can begin walking around again after two weeks. You should be able to get back to normal after about 6-8 weeks. However, severe stress fractures can require surgery which will take longer to heal.

If you think you have a stress fracture in your foot, go to your doctors, they will be able to examine you and then provide you with the treatment you need.