Foot & Ankle Stress Fractures: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments
A stress fracture is a type of bone break or crack in which the bone breaks but does not move. Stress fractures are common in the foot and ankle bones because we constantly apply force to them while standing, walking, running, and jumping.
Causes of a stress fracture in the foot and ankle
People with healthy bones overuse their feet and ankles through frequent, repetitive motion; people with very weak bones from a separate, underlying condition suffer a stress fracture in the foot; and people wearing shoes with poor support, such as high heels, are at risk.
What bones in the foot and ankle are affected by a stress fracture?
A stress fracture can affect any of the bones in the lower leg, ankle, or foot, but the metatarsals, navicular, and calcaneus are the most commonly affected. Navicular stress fractures take a long time to heal, while metatarsal fractures are more common.
What are the symptoms of a stress fracture in the foot and ankle?
Pain is the most common symptom of a stress fracture, which gets worse when you do impact activities and gets better when you rest. If an untreated stress fracture worsens, you will experience pain more frequently during activities that put stress on the affected bones.
How are stress fractures diagnosed?
Because the bone reacts and grows new bone to heal the crack, X-rays may appear normal when a stress fracture is present. A radiologist confirms the stress fracture diagnosis by seeing the calcification of new bone growth on your X-ray.
How do you treat a stress fracture?
Most stress fractures will heal on their own if you limit your activity and wear protective footwear. You should also avoid all high-impact activity for a period of time, usually six weeks. Icing and elevating the affected leg immediately after a stress fracture can help reduce swelling and pain.
How long does it take for a stress fracture to heal?
Depending on which bone is broken, most stress fractures heal in 4 to 6 weeks. The worst activities to resume while recovering from a stress fracture are running or walking on hard surfaces.
Preventing stress fractures
To help maintain bone density, eat calcium-rich foods and make sure you get enough Vitamin D each day. Instead of wearing old or stiff shoes, try comfortable, well-padded, and supportive shoes. Gradually increase the time, speed, and distance you exercise.
How can you tell if you have a stress fracture in your foot?
Symptoms of a Stress Fracture in the Foot
- Tenderness. The injured bone may feel painful or sore when touched
- this is known as “pinpoint pain.”
- Deep, dull pain. The pain may be felt deep within the foot or toes.
- Intermittent pain.
- Changes in biomechanics.
Can you walk with a stress fracture in the foot?
Running or even walking on hard surfaces are the worst activities to resume while recovering from a foot or ankle stress fracture because you risk reopening the fracture and having to start the recovery process all over again. Instead, wear comfortable, supportive shoes without a raised heel while recovering.
How do you detect a stress fracture?
An MRI is the best way to diagnose stress fractures because it can see lower grade stress injuries (stress reactions) before an X-ray can show changes, and it can distinguish between stress fractures and soft tissue injuries.
Can a stress fracture heal without a boot?
A low-risk stress fracture will usually heal on its own and may not even necessitate the use of crutches or a boot.
What happens if a stress fracture is left untreated?
Stress fractures often worsen if left untreated, eventually becoming incapacitating, and a bone with an untreated stress fracture may break completely, necessitating more extensive treatment.
Can you self diagnose a stress fracture?
Treat the area with ice and anti-inflammatories if you suspect you have a stress fracture, but keep in mind that stress fractures are not a self-diagnosis or self-treatment type of injury.
What is the fastest way to heal a stress fracture?
How to Heal a Stress Fracture Quickly
- To control symptoms, apply ice and take pain medications.
- Protect the stress fracture site with a cast or splint.
- Start partial weight bearing only when pain is gone.
- Increase your activity to avoid recurrence of the fracture.
How can you tell the difference between a plantar fasciitis and a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is more likely if there is swelling around the painful area; if stretching temporarily relieves the pain, it could be the result of plantar fasciitis; if squeezing the heel bone (between the thumb and fingers on the inside and outside of the heel) causes pain, it could be the result of a stress fracture.
How long do stress fractures take to heal?
Most stress fractures heal in six to eight weeks, which is how long it takes the body to regenerate new bone cells and repair the small cracks in the bone.
Can I have a stress fracture without swelling?
If one continues to run despite the pain, it will eventually become unbearable to run or even put any weight on the foot. Diagnosing a stress fracture can be difficult because there is usually no external manifestation of the injury. There may be some swelling, but no bruising.
Should you wear a boot for a stress fracture?
The boot you’ve been given is only for your comfort; it won’t help with fracture healing, but it will help you feel better and should be worn for 6 weeks. Follow up: You’ll see a Foot and Ankle Specialist about 6 weeks after your injury.
What is the hop test for a stress fracture?
Foot Stress Fracture Test, Hop Test An athlete will be asked to stand on one leg and jump as high as possible three times under medical supervision and after a recovery period to test the load on the lower extremity. If the athlete can do this without pain, they will be cleared to return to sports.
Do stress fractures hurt more at night?
What are the signs and symptoms of a stress fracture? Pain is usually felt over the injured area and develops over a few weeks. It is typically worse when putting weight on the injured area and better when resting. As the stress fracture worsens, the pain may become present at rest and at night.
What does a boot do for a stress fracture?
To keep the bones in a fixed position, your doctor may need to put a cast or fracture boot on your foot. A cast or boot relieves stress on the leg and promotes healing.
Do you need a boot for a hairline fracture?
We should modify activity to reduce pain and allow controlled loading to encourage bone growth in these stress fractures; in the majority of these patients, pain is minimal and no boots, crutches, or scooters are required.