What is a Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures are very small cracks in bones. They are quite common in feet and may be the result of an overuse injury to the bone or can happen to a weakened bone resulting from conditions such as osteoporosis.
Metatarsal and navicular stress fracture are the most common types of foot stress fractures. They occur when stress is transferred to bones when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock caused by running, walking, or jumping.
Stress Fracture Symptoms
Symptoms may include swelling and pain, most likely a dull ache that will increase with weight bearing activities. If untreated then pain may progress and occur at night.
Diagnosing Stress fractures
Stress fractures are unlike other fractures as they do not show up immediately on imaging. X-rays are commonly used to diagnose a stress fracture but they often can take 4-6 weeks to be seen, after the bone has started to remodel.
Often a GP may order an MRI or a CT scan.
Treatment of Stress Fractures
The ideal treatment is rest.
In the case of a foot stress fracture the next best option is to offload the area to allow it to heal. Sometimes this may involve an offloading boot or just ceasing the activity that caused the stress fracture e.g. running or jumping.
It is important to allow the stress fracture time to heal or the injury can return.
Prevention of Stress Fractures
To prevent stress fractures reoccurring it is important to replace running shoes (trainers) regularly and not to wear old or worn out shoes. Equally if the stress fracture is the result of a new sport or activity then the return to sport should be gradual.
Correction of foot biomechanics with custom foot orthotics can be an important treatment option to prevent recurrence of foot stress fractures.