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Stress Fracture

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Stress Fracture

(Fracture, Stress)


A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone. They are most common in the lower leg and foot.

Stress Fractures of the Tibia and Fibula.

Nucleus factsheet imagehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=73227322si55550729.jpgsi55550729.jpgNULLjpgsi55550729.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55550729.jpgNULL14NULL2008-11-072543907322_11532Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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

Risk Factors

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
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use disorder


Symptoms may be:

  • Pain that is worse with activity and better with rest
  • Swelling


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
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.