Stress Fracture Symptoms In Your Foot
What are they and how are they treated?
If you participate in any sports or have weakened bones, you may develop a stress fracture in your foot. The orthopedic surgeons at OrthoNeuro, Columbus, Ohio, can help you identify any stress fractures and offer expert foot care treatments.
How Do You Know If You Have A Stress Fracture In Your Foot?
Stress fractures of the foot are painful. You will have tenderness or “pinpoint pain” at the site of the fracture and perhaps some swelling.
Pain in the following situations may indicate that you have a stress fracture:
- At the start of an activity and then resolves with rest.
- Throughout the activity, and does not go away after the activity has ended.
- While at rest, during normal activity, or with everyday walking.
- It is worse when hopping on one leg, or you may be unable to shift your weight or hop on the affected foot.
If you are at risk of getting a stress fracture, you should be alert to the symptoms. Early treatment will prevent the pain from becoming too severe and reduce the chances of the fracture becoming displaced.
See your doctor as soon as you think you may have a fracture. They will be able to offer a bone scan or magnetic resonance imaging to identify the fracture and suggest the best treatment.
What Is The Fastest Way To Heal A Stress Fracture?
Stress fracture treatment will depend on the location and severity of your fracture. Your provider will also aim to treat any risk factors you have, preventing future injuries.
Your doctor may recommend the following treatments:
- Stopping the activity that leads to the pain. Stress fractures often occur because of repetitive stress and overuse.
- Applying an ice pack or cold pack to the injured area for 10 minutes.
- Reduce weight bearing by resting between two to eight weeks.
- Your doctor may allow you to perform some non-impact exercises as you recover from your fracture. Once you can perform low-impact activities for extended periods without pain, you can progress to high-impact exercises.
- Physical therapy may also be used to make adjustments to avoid future injury.
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help relieve pain and swelling.
- Protective footwear can help to reduce stress on your feet. This may be a stiff-soled shoe such as a wooden-soled sandal or a walking boot.
- Crutches to keep your weight off your foot until the bone heals.
- Your doctor may suggest using a cast to keep the bone in a fixed position.
- Internal fixation may be needed if stress fractures become displaced. The surgeon may use pins, screws, or metal plates to hold the small bones of the foot and ankle together.
How Long Does It Take For A Stress Fracture To Heal?
The healing process roughly takes six to eight weeks for a stress fracture to heal. Pain is a sign that the foot is still weak. Ignoring the pain will only delay your recovery. Always ask your doctor before you fully return to your exercise program. Once the area is healed, you are ready to go.
Returning to your previous activity should be gradual. For example, if you are a runner, you should resume low-impact activity for 4 to 6 weeks. Once you are pain-free, you may begin a conservative jogging regimen. Increase your running mileage very slowly over time. Do not do too much, too soon.
Why Do I Keep Getting Stress Fractures In My Feet?
The reasons why stress fractures occur can fall into two categories. There are extrinsic factors and intrinsic factors.
Extrinsic factors are the things that happen outside of the body. These factors can include:
- High impact sports. Stress fractures are more common in athletes who participate in sports such as track and field, basketball, tennis, dance, or gymnastics.
- Increased activity. Increasing your activity including the frequency, intensity, or duration, can cause stress fractures to occur.
- Lack of nutrients. Eating disorders and insufficient vitamin D and calcium levels can limit bone strength development resulting in stress fractures.
Intrinsic factors are things that are related to the athlete or patient and aren’t impacted by outside forces. These factors can include:
- Gender. Women are at a higher risk of developing stress fractures. This is especially true for those who have abnormal or absent menstrual periods.
- Weakened bones. The presence of osteoporosis can make it easier to develop a stress reaction or fracture to occur.
- Foot problems. Flat feet or high, rigid arches have a higher tendency to develop stress fractures.
- Previous stress fractures. If you had one or more stress fractures in the past, you are at higher risk of having more.
Medically reviewed by Ralph Napolitano Jr. DPM
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