Stress Fractures of the Foot

Stress fractures of the foot are tiny hairline cracks in a bone of the foot. They are not easily seen on x-rays. The bones most commonly affected are the weight-bearing bones. The most common place to experience a stress fracture in the foot is at the second and third metatarsals, the heel, or the top of the foot over the long bones of the feet. Symptoms include pain and tenderness over or near the site of the injury, especially during activity. The pain will lessen when the activity stops. Cause Stress fractures result from overuse because when the muscles are tired, they don’t effectively reduce the compressive forces on the feet. The bones then have to absorb some of these forces, and with enough force, they fracture. Stress fractures also may result from increasing your activity too fast too soon. Athletes in certain sports are more likely to experience stress fractures: ballerinas, cheerleaders, gymnasts, tennis players, runners, jumpers, and basketball players. It’s the jumping up and down and landing on the feet that can cause the stress fractures. Wearing worn-out gym shoes that don’t absorb the shock of jumping is another cause of the problem, as is running on hard surfaces or running uphill. Weakened bones from improper diet and nutritional deficiencies are another cause of stress fractures, as are any medical conditions that cause a low bone density. Treatment and Prevention Before your medical consultation, you may want to wait 48 hours. Stress fractures, or any fractures may not show up on an x-ray for the first two days after the injury. Once a stress fracture is detected on x-ray or other imaging device, you’ll be asked to stop any activity that caused the fracture for the next 6 to 8 weeks. This doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise at all. You may be allowed to swim or ride a bicycle during that time. When you do walk, you’ll need a shoe with a stiff sole. Some stress fractures require casts or surgery to heal. During surgery, the bones are pinned together. Rehabilitation exercises may be recommended. These will help you ease back into a normal routine of exercise. Since re-injury is a major concern, it’s important to start back to exercise slowly. Discard worn-out running shoes. Building up the muscles around the site of injury is important. Consider an orthotic arch support for a proper foot foundation.