Stress Fracture Foot
Our feet are under constant stress every day. From simply just standing in one place to running long distances, the bones in the feet have to bear the weight of the entire body with each step taken. So it is not surprising to hear that the bones in the feet can be vulnerable to stress reactions and fractures.
These stress fractures, commonly affect the metatarsal bones in the feet, particularly the second and third metatarsal. They also often occur in the Navicular and Calcaneus bones. Stress fractures do not necessarily need to occur from constant heavy stress to the foot. In patients with osteoporosis or other medical conditions, stress fractures can occur with minimal trauma to the foot.
In this article we shall talk a bit about what symptoms patients can experience and how it can be diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms of Foot Stress Fractures
As is expected with any fracture, stress fractures also cause pain, swelling and tenderness in the foot. Patients often struggle to recall when the pain first started, but will note that it has slowly increased over time. The pain is often described as a dull ache which is aggravated by activity. Pain is usually absent at rest.
Stress fractures should be suspected in people who have suddenly commenced strenuous athletic activity who are complaining of pain in their foot. In women who are athletic and have problems with their menstrual cycles, stress fractures seem to be a lot more common.
Tests to diagnose Stress Fractures
In most cases, stress fractures can be diagnosed from history. Sometimes additional tests looking for reasons why the bones may be weak may be looked into. X-rays of the foot are useful but may not pick up fractures early on and sometimes may not clearly show a fracture.
Bone scans (using Technetium 99-m) are extremely useful and sensitive tests to detect the point of fracture if not seen on an x-ray.
It is essential to distinguish a broken foot from a stress fracture. Stress fractures are usually hairline fractures that do not break the entire bone, but just the outer layer of the bone. On the other hand, a broken bone refers to one that is completely broken and clearly visible on x-ray. There is usually a specific injury associated with an acute fracture.
How are Foot Stress Fractures treated?
The most important step is rest. Stop the activity that led to the fracture itself to give the bone time to heal. Shortly after a fracture is diagnosed, doctors or podiatrists may be able to offer a specific support or splint to immobilise the foot till the fracture heals.
Depending on the severity of the fracture, patients can continue other forms of activity that does not place undue stress on the foot. Your Podiatrist can provide sound advice regarding what you should and shouldn’t do. Some low impact exercises can include cycling and swimming.
On average stress fractures can take up to 6 weeks to heal fully without complications.
Stress Fracture Foot Conclusion
Stress fractures are common in athletes and can cause a great degree of pain and frustration. Rest and other treatments from your Podiatrist can help to not only resolve the fracture, but also reduce the risk of future injury.