What Is a Stress Fracture and What Causes It?

April 13, 2021
What Is a Stress Fracture and What Causes It?

Each foot is made up of twenty-eight bones and more than thirty joints. High-impact exercise over a long period can result in a stress fracture. A stress fracture is when tiny cracks in the bone occur. People at the highest risk for stress fractures include military personnel, who often have to carry large, heavy packs over a distance, or athletes, especially long-distance runners. A stress fracture can also occur from incorrect exercise and a change in the surface; for instance, running on the treadmill, then switching to gravel.

There are many risk factors involved with stress fractures:

·        Age: older athletes are at greater risk

·        Sports: any high impact sports such as track and field, basketball, and gymnastics

·        Increase in activity: if you just started to work out and not build up the sport

·        Gender: females who have abnormal menstrual cycles are at higher risk

·        Foot problems: people with flat feet or rigid arches are at greater risk

·        Weak bones: calcium deficiency or osteoporosis cause weak bones that could result in fractures of the foot

·        Previous injury: any previous stress fractures could result in more later on

·        Nutrients: lack of calcium or vitamin D could heighten the risk for fractures of the foot 

Some steps you can take to prevent stress fractures include slowly working up to a high impact workout, wearing proper footwear, and getting adequate nutrition. Consider cross-training and incorporating low-impact exercises like swimming.

Signs You May Have a Stress Fracture

Most of the time, you will not notice the pain of a stress fracture at first. However, it worsens with time. The most common symptoms include pain and swelling around the fractured area. You will feel more extreme pain if you touch the site or start an activity. The pain does not subside as you continue the training. The foot may also continue to ache after the initial pain.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Stress Fractures

Only a doctor can diagnose stress fractures. To do so, the doctor will perform a physical test and an X-Ray, MRI, or bone scan. The doctor will observe you walking or running and look for where the pain is in the foot. 

There are multiple treatments for stress fractures, ranging from home and lifestyle changes to more invasive measures. Your treatment may begin with at-home remedies. For example, rest and ice are excellent beginning treatments for any foot pain. After a bit, and with the doctor’s advice, you may resume working out; however, you want to go back slowly to avoid the injury reoccurring. 

On average, it takes six to eight weeks to recover from a stress fracture fully, and it may still be fractured as long as the pain is evident.

In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a walking boot or brace to support the injured foot's weight. Treatment may also require crutches to take all the weight off the foot. In some extreme cases, the foot may need surgery to ensure the bones mend correctly.

If you have foot pain or more questions about stress fractures, please visit Diablo Foot and Ankle or call (925)464-1982.

Common Podiatry Questions

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

What does a Podiatrist treat?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the feet. They can treat conditions such as ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

What’s the difference between a Podiatrist and Orthopedist?

A Podiatrist and Orthopedist are very similar to each other in many ways. They use most of the same tools and treat a lot of the same conditions. The main difference between the two is their medical training. Podiatrists are trained exclusively on the foot and ankle, whereas the Orthopedic is trained on the whole body with an additional year of training on the foot and ankle.

Where are your Podiatry clinics located?

At Diablo Foot & Ankle, we treat our foot and ankle patients in two main clinic locations in Walnut Creek and in Antioch California. Dr. Eman Elmi and Dr. Shayan Esspoor are Board Certified Podiatrists who specialize in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

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