What is a Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures are a type of overuse injury in the foot or ankle. When muscles become fatigued they’re no longer able to absorb the shock of repeated impacts. As a result, this added stress is transferred to the bones with every step you take, causing tiny cracks to appear with possible chronic ankle pain.
Types of Foot and Ankle Stress Fractures
The following will briefly describe two stress fractures frequently seen in the area of the foot and ankle. These fractures are commonly addressed, diagnosed and treated by Dr. Vora and his staff.
An insufficiency fracture appears when there’s not enough bone available to withstand the regularity of daily use. This type of foot stress fracture occurs when an underlying condition is present, which weakens the bones leaving them more vulnerable to breaks.
Metatarsal Stress Fractures
Stress fractures of the metatarsals, navicular or talus bones occur in the same manner, however they take longer to heal. Located on the outer side of the foot, this condition typically hosts a six to eight week recovery. Casting and the use of crutches may be necessary until the bone heals properly. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to reconstruct the bone into a proper alignment.
The Risk Factors
The following list includes risk factors that are associated with the development of stress fractures.
- Overuse during athletics
- Injuries to adolescents with developing bones
- Women who have abnormal or absent menstrual cycles (low bone mass)
- Military recruits’ sudden lifestyle change (sedentary to active training)
The Causes of Stress Fractures
Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. They most commonly affect the second or third metatarsals located between the toes and midfoot. Stress fractures can also be found in the heel as well as the navicular. The exact cause of a stress fracture will vary between patients, but they share common possibilities. Below are some of the many causes of stress fractures in the foot and ankle.
- Runners with inappropriate training regimens
- Improper equipment (i.e. poor fitting shoes)
- Change of surfaces (i.e. grass to pavement or clay)
- Errors in technique during physical activity
- Altered foot mechanics such as flatfoot or bunions
Stress fractures can often lead to larger problems involving chronic pain such as a complete break of the bone. To avoid the scenario altogether, there are some preventative measures that can contribute to stress fracture protection. Here are some of the things you can do to protect your body:
- A healthy diet with calcium-rich foods (bone strength)
- Using proper sports equipment (i.e. new running shoes)
- Alternating exercise activities
- Slowly increasing any new sport activity
- Stopping activity entirely when pain or swelling returns
When To Address Foot and Ankle Pain
If any foot or ankle stress is suspected, activity must stop so the area can rest. Ignoring or brushing aside pain can have serious consequences such as the bone completely breaking. An ice pack should later be applied while keeping the area elevated before finding professional orthopedic assistance. Since x-rays often can’t detect the fracture, the diagnosis lies in the hands of a board-certified physician.
Further testing, such as a bone scan, will continue so the correct recovery plan can be determined.
Stress Fracture Treatment and Rehab in Chicago
Treatment will depend on the location of the stress fracture. Most stress fractures will heal upon the reduction of activity and the utilization of protective footwear for two to six weeks. If you experience any swelling or gradual pain with the increase of weight-bearing activity, get in touch with a doctor immediately before the condition worsens. For those in need of stress fracture assistance in Chicago, Dr. Vora is an Illinois-based orthopedic foot and ankle specialist equipped to help patients with their lower extremity orthopedic conditions. Feel free to contact Dr. Vora at a greater Chicagoland clinic near you for assistance.