A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone. They are most common in the lower leg and foot.
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A stress fracture is caused by repeated stress or overuse from:
- Increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too quickly
- Changing to a new playing surface
- Not wearing the right shoes or wearing old shoes for a sport
Stress fractures are more common in women. Things that may raise the risk of this fracture are:
- A sudden increase in activity
- Not getting enough rest between physical activities
- Playing sports that involve running and jumping, such as track and field, tennis, gymnastics, and basketball
- Having female athlete triad
- Bone disorders, such as osteoporosis and Paget disease
- Low levels of vitamin D and calcium
- Alcohol use disorder
Symptoms may be:
- Pain that is worse with activity and better with rest
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. They will also ask about regular activities. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect a stress fracture based on symptoms.
Pictures may be taken if pain is severe or fracture is not healing as expected. Tests may be:
It can take 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. The goal of treatment is to help the bones heal properly to prevent long term problems.
To lower the chance of a stress fracture:
- Slowly increase the amount and intensity of activities over time.
- Wear the right shoes for sports.
- Eat a diet that contains foods with vitamin D and calcium.
Support for a stress fracture can include:
- Medicine to ease pain and swelling
- A walking boot to support the bone as it heals
- A cane or crutches to allow movement with less stress on the bone
- Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion
- Femoral stress fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/femoral-stress-fracture.
- Stress fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/stress-fractures.
- Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/stress-fractures-of-the-foot-and-ankle.
- Tibial plateau fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tibial-plateau-fracture.
- Welck MJ, Hayes T, et al. Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. Injury 2017 Aug;48(8):1722.
- Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS
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