14 Jun Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle
Stress fractures are small cracks or severe bruising that occurs within a bone. They come as a result of overuse of the muscles, to a point where the muscles are not able to adequately absorb shock. Our bones are naturally not adapted to shock absorbing; thus the repetitive transfer of shock from the muscles to the bones leads to small cracks or bruises on the bone.
A stress fracture is as a result of microscopic damage to the bone due to repetitive stress. However, the microscopic cracks are not severe enough to cause a common fracture (one where there is a definite break in the bone).
Who is mostly affected by stress fractures?
- Stress fractures primarily affect athletes taking part in sports activities that require either running or jogging.
- Individuals with brittle bones also stand a higher chance of developing stress fractures.
- Adolescents with weak bones stand at a risk too.
What are the causes of stress fractures?
The number one cause of stress fractures is the sudden increase in the intensity and time spent during workouts. Running on a hard surface can also contribute to the occurrence of stress fractures.
People that have (or are) suffering from diseases that weaken the bone, such as osteoporosis, may develop stress fractures by just taking part in everyday activities.
Areas of the foot prone to stress fractures
The second and third metatarsals in the foot are arguably longer and thinner than their counterparts. Also, they are located in the area of the foot that is faced with a large force as you walk or run. As such, the second and third metatarsals are highly susceptible to stress fractures.
Other areas of the foot prone to stress fractures include the calcaneus (heel bone), the tibia (the outer bone of the lower leg), the navicular ( the bone sitting on top of your midfoot) and the talus ( a bone that is part of your ankle joint).
Signs and Symptoms of Stress Fractures
- A feeling of pain that slowly develops over time is instigated by weight-bearing activity and lessens with rest.
- Swelling and tenderness around the affected area.
- Sometimes, there may be significant bruising over the fracture site.
Treatment Options for Stress Fractures
Conservative (nonsurgical) treatment options
- 1. Immediate and adequate rest will result in a faster healing process. One should immediately cease from intense activities when experiencing symptoms of stress fractures to prevent complete breaking of the bone.
- Wearing of protective footwear. Your podiatrist may recommend shoe modifications such as wearing stiff-soled shoe inserts or leg braces. Bone-strengthening supplements such as calcium and Vitamin D can also be prescribed by your podiatrist if need be.
Surgical Treatment Options
In most cases, dutifully following through with the nonsurgical treatments outlined above positively stimulates healing of the bone. However, when conservative treatment measures fail, your podiatrist will opt for surgical treatment.
One surgery option may involve screwing together nonunions (bones that have not managed to heal). Bone grafting can also be performed, where a podiatrist implants a fresh bone on the fracture site. Surgical treatment options take a longer time to heal than conservative treatment options.
Preventing Stress Fractures
To avoid complications brought about by stress fractures, you can practice the following:
- Gradually working into your exercise regime after a layoff period
- Wearing appropriate footwear with adequate support and protection
- Stretching and warming up your muscles before any exercise.
If you experience any pain in your foot or ankle area that gradually increases with the intensity of the exercise, take a break from your activity and rest your muscles. If the pain persists, see a top Scottsdale or Phoenix podiatrist near you. Oasis Foot and Ankle accepts most insurance, call today!