Stress Fracture

What are Stress Fractures?

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone. They are the result of repetitive application of force, such as jumping repeatedly or running for long distances. Stress fractures can also be caused by normal use of any bones that have been weakened by some other pre-existing condition such as osteoporosis.

Stress fractures are commonly found in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. Long distance runners and other athletes are especially susceptible to stress fractures, but they can happen to anyone. Starting a new exercise regiment, or over stressing your body through athletic activity, may increase your risk of developing a stress fracture.

Picture of a Stress Fracture

colorado foot institute stress fracture

Stress Fracture Symptoms

Patients with stress fractures may experience one or more of the following:

  • Pain that is increased by activity and decreased with rest
  • Pain that occurs at a progressively earlier time with each workout
  • Pain that is increased over time
  • Swelling
  • A specific area of the affected bone than feels painful or tender to the touch

Stress fractures may start out as being barely noticeable, but pay close attention to the level of pain experienced. Healthy treatment and self care can prevent the stress fracture from becoming worse.

What Causes A Stress Fracture?

Stress fractures develop over time due to the repetitive application of force that is greater than the amount of force usually carried by the lower legs and feet. This force can create an imbalance between the growth of the bone and resorption, both of which are happening all the time. Repeated force will cause you to lose bone cells, but new bone cells will be added every time you rest.

If the bones of the foot and lower leg are subjected to large amounts of force without allowing time for recovery, you will reabsorb bone cells quicker than they can be replaced. This condition is known as “bone fatigue”. Continued, repeated force will create small crack within fatigued bones. These minute cracks will eventually become stress fractures.

Risk Factors

Your risk of developing a stress fracture may increase if you:

  • Play high-impact sports
  • Are female and experience absent or abnormal periods
  • Make a sudden change from being largely inactive, then suddenly working out, playing sports, or engaging in other intense physical activity.
  • Have high and rigid arches or flat feet
  • Have osteoporosis or any other condition that may weaken bones or decrease density

Stress Fracture Foot

Stress fractures generally go unnoticed early on, and are not usually visible on x-rays until two or three weeks after symptoms. If the x-rays are not helpful in determining whether or not a metatarsalgia stress fracture is present, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a (CT) bone scan are two other options that will aid in the evaluation of your condition.

When Should You See A Doctor?

Stress fractures are not always obvious. They usually develop over time, which makes it difficult to tell exactly when they require a doctors care. It is advised you see a doctor if any routine activity causes you pain or continues to be painful even after you stop the provoking activity.

We Can Help You

Dr. Mechanik is Board Certified in Foot Surgery and Board Certified in Reconstructive Rear Foot and Ankle Surgery. He has the medical and surgical skills to treat your foot conditions.

Dr. Mechanik received his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from the the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine which is part of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, a national leader in medical education.

Dr. Mechanik then went on to complete a twenty-four month post-graduate Residency training program in Foot and Ankle Surgery and a twenty-four month surgical Fellowship training program in Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Surgery.

Dr. Mechanik is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and a  Diplomate, American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery.

Dr. Mechanik will perform a full evaluation of the afflicted foot to determine whether or not a stress fracture is present. If a stress fracture has developed, Dr. Mechanik will discuss treatment options with you and advise you to get plenty of rest. This will usually be followed by some type of physical therapy. In some cases, a walking boot or cast may be necessary.