Stress Fractures

This article does not constitute as medical advice.
If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your doctor or make an appointment.

What are Stress Fractures?

Stress fractures are tiny breaks in the bone caused by overuse, repeated pressure, or weakness from conditions like osteoporosis or aging. This condition is also common if shin splints are left untreated. To treat stress fractures, patients will need rest or immobilization and may take weeks to heal. Therefore, it is essential to understand and assess the cause of the stress fractures so that patients can address the issue to avoid further injury.

Causes of Stress Fractures

Repetitive pounding and wear and tear cause tiny breaks in the bones. Here are some specific factors that lead to the weakening of the feet and legs: 

  • Sports: Basketball, running, and gymnastics are sports that produce this injury in their athletes. These activities put repetitive pressure on the bones at a very high intensity. 
  • Improper Training Techniques: Those who suddenly move from a sedentary lifestyle to a very high-impact exercise routine increase their risk of fractures. Improperly warming up or cooling down can also be a culprit. 
  • The Female Athlete Triad: Female athletes who may be over-exercising and undereating could be at risk for developing abnormal menstrual cycles. Irregular or absent periods lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis, resulting in stress fractures. 
  • Foot Shape: Existing foot problems like flat feet or very high arches create foot imbalances. 
  • Weak Bones: Weakened bones due to conditions like osteoporosis or cancer
  • Aging: Wear and tear on the bones as the patient ages 

Symptoms of Stress Fractures

Pain that increasingly worsens is a sign of a fracture. If you are experiencing these common symptoms, contact your podiatrist. 

  • Mild pain initially that worsens with time
  • Pain that increases with use and decreases upon rest
  • Swelling on the inflamed area
  • Tenderness to touch

Treating Stress Fractures

Patients with this condition may be out of commission for their sport or activity for weeks at a time for proper healing. To keep healthy, here are ways to prevent and treat stress fractures. 

Prevention 

  • Proper sports technique: Ease into your activity and ensure you are actively warming up and cooling down. If you notice pain, take a break in the early stages of the injury. 
  • Diet: Eat a well-rounded diet and make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D for bone health. 
  • Proper shoes: Wear cushioned and supportive shoes specific for your sport. 

Treatment: 

  • Rest: Your podiatrist may recommend resting for 6-8 weeks from intensive activity to heal the injury 
  • Ice: Ice the injury for 10-15 minutes at a time 3x per week 
  • Low impact exercise: Engage in low weight-bearing activities like swimming to remain active. 
  • Casting: If your stress fracture is in the foot, your podiatrist may cast your foot to keep bones in place during the healing process. 
  • Surgery: Severe cases can require surgery. Pins or screws are inserted into the bones to hold the foot and the ankle together. 
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