Dr. Sheryl Smith
A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone. Stress fractures often develop from overuse, such as from high-impact sports like distance running or basketball.
Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. Studies show that athletes participating in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are at high risk for stress fractures.
In all of these sports, the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground can cause problems. Rest is the key element to recovery from a stress fracture.
Anyone can get a stress fracture. It can occur from overuse, errors in training, or even from bone insufficiency. Certain medications can cause loss of bone density, leading to stress fractures.
Medical history, visual inspection and activity monitoring can diagnose stress fractures. It is common to have an x-ray and scanning evaluations if needed.
Pain usually develops gradually, increasing with activity. You may notice pain that is more severe with certain activities subsides during the evening. The foot may be tender and there may be swelling and bruising. If you suspect a stress fracture in your foot or ankle, stop the activity and rest. Ignoring the pain can have serious consequences.
Apply an ice pack and elevate your foot above the level of your heart. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen may help relieve pain and swelling, but may inhibit bone healing. Try not to put weight on your foot until after you see a doctor.
The goal of any treatment is to help you return to all the activities you enjoy. Following your doctor's treatment plan will restore your abilities faster, and help you prevent further problems in the future.
Rest. Take a break from the activity that caused the stress fracture. It typically takes 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. Use protective footwear to reduce stress on your foot and leg. Your doctor may apply a cast to your foot to keep your bones in a fixed position and to remove the stress on your involved leg. To keep weight off your foot and leg, Dr. Smith may recommend that you use crutches until the bone heals.
Some stress fractures require surgery to heal properly. In most cases, this involves supporting the bones by inserting a type of fastener. This is called internal fixation. Pins, screws, and/or plates are most often used to hold the small bones of the foot and ankle together during the healing process.
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OKFootMD Dr. Sheryl Smith