Stress Fractures of The Foot

A Stress fracture is generally an overuse injury. It occurs when muscles become fatigued or overloaded, and cannot absorb the stress, shock, and repeated impact. Fatigued muscles transfer that stress to the nearby bone and the result is a small crack or fracture.

Stress fractures in the bones of the foot are usually caused by over-training or overuse. They can also be caused by doing too much on hard surfaces, such as running on concrete or wood floors. Increasing the time or intensity of exercise too rapidly is another cause, as well as wearing improper footwear.

Women seem to be at greater risk than men are. This may be related to a condition called the “female athlete triad”. This is a combination of poor nutrition, eating disorders, and amenorrhea (infrequent menstrual cycles), that predisposes to osteoporosis ( thinning of bones ).

It should also be mentioned that stress fractures could occur for no known reason.

Many times the foot is swollen and painful without any history of injury. Standard X-rays will usually not show the fracture until 2-3 weeks after the original symptoms. A bone scan, CT scan, or MRI may be necessary to detect the stress fracture in the early stages.

The best treatment is rest and non-weightbearing. It may take anywhere from 6-8 weeks for complete healing to take place. Sometimes an anti-inflammatory medication (Ibuprofen, Aleve, or stronger ) is needed. In more moderate cases, an off-loading surgical shoe or walking boot is advised. In very serious or painful cases, non-weightbearing with crutches or knee roller can be used.

Dr. Marc Fink

P.S. Stress fractures can also give the same symptoms as bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, and gout. Sometimes a blood test will be able to help determine gout and arthritis.

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