A stress fracture is an incomplete crack in the bone caused by overuse
Stress fractures are common injuries, especially among athletes and may develop over a period of many days, weeks or months.
Stress Fractures are caused by excessive stress on the bones of the foot and can often be caused by a biomechanical imbalance or by a medical condition, such as osteoporosis, or medications, such a steroids.
Contributing factors to stress factures may include:
- Low body weight
- High training intensity
- Poor nutrition, physical stress
- Younger athletic children involved in multiple sports will be more prone to stress fractures
How to recognize and treat a stress fracture
The onset of pain and swelling is usually gradual and may hardly be noticeable at first. If it gets worse with activity and improves with rest, this may be a sign of a stress fracture.
You should follow the recognized management protocol – RICED—rest, ice, compression, elevation and diagnosis:
- Rest – keep off the injured ankle as much as possible.
- Ice – applied for 20 minutes at a time every hour as long as swelling persists.
- Compression – support the ankle and foot with a firmly (not tightly) wrapped elastic bandage.
- Elevation – keep foot above heart level to minimize bruising and swelling.
- Diagnosis – Consult a medical professional (such as a doctor or podiatrist) especially if you are worried about the injury, or if the pain or swelling gets worse. If the pain or swelling has not gone down significantly within 48 hours, also seek treatment. An accurate diagnosis is essential for proper rehabilitation of moderate to severe injuries
When to see a Podiatrist
You should not try to work through the pain. If a Podiatrist treats a stress fracture early, you can hopefully avoid more serious problems such as a stress fracture that will not heal or a stress fracture that turns into an actual broken bone.
When you have remained pain-free for two weeks or so, a Podiatrist will supervise your rehabilitation and a gradual return to activity may begin. Returning to activity too early or increasing the amount of activity too quickly may initiate the stress fracture process again. The first four weeks are the most vulnerable time during a fracture’s repair process.
Stress fractures can be difficult to manage, especially in a competitive athlete. Treatment for stress fractures consists of relative or absolute rest. The activity that caused the injury must be avoided to prevent delayed or improper healing.
Your Podiatrist can advise if orthotic supports, casting or bracing is necessary and they may prescribe custom orthotics for long-term control and prevention.
Podiatrists have an important role to play in preventing and managing foot problems. Prompt action is important. Problems which are left without assessment or treatment may result in major health risks.