Your foot is amazing when you really think about the work it does each day. It’s made up of 26 bones, most of them in the area called the forefoot, where your toes are. All those bones, along with the support of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, allow you to stand and walk, run and jump, and move in marvelous ways.
Most of the time, when you think about breaking a bone, you probably think about a sudden and severe break, but the providers at Orthocenter often see patients who have fractures in their feet and aren’t aware of the problem. Repeated stress can lead to small cracks in the bones of your feet, called stress fractures. In this post, we discuss who is most likely to experience this type of fracture and signs that you may have one.
Who is susceptible?
Stress fractures are most common in people who do similar activities very often—a stress fracture is usually an overuse or repetitive activity injury. Runners, or people who participate in sports with lots of running, like basketball or soccer are more likely to develop a stress fracture than someone who prefers swimming or riding a bike.
Changing the activity you do can increase your risk, too. If you usually ride a bike but you decide to run for a change, for example, you may have a higher risk of a stress fracture. For runners, suddenly increasing your mileage or changing the surface you run on can make a stress fracture more likely.
If you have osteoporosis, your bones are more porous and more likely to experience fractured or broken bones. Certain medications, too, can weaken your bones and lead to stress fractures.
Symptoms of a stress fracture
The most common symptom of a stress fracture is pain, but it isn’t the sudden, severe pain you might imagine you’d feel with a broken bone. Instead, most people report that the pain develops gradually and worsens during activities when your foot is holding your weight. Often, the pain goes away when you rest and worsens when you do physical activities throughout the day.
You may also have bruising and swelling on the top of your foot or at your ankle. You may have tenderness around the bone that is fractured.
These symptoms aren’t always clear, and you may think your foot is bruised or that your shoes don’t fit quite right. However, if they continue, you should rest and seek medical care.
Treatment for a stress fracture
The best treatment depends on your age, overall health, activity level, and many other factors. The first line approach is the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. We may also advise you to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
You will also need to modify your activities for at least six to eight weeks so that your bones have time to heal. Your doctor will provide you with specific guidelines designed to suit your circumstances.
If you have foot pain and are unsure why, schedule an appointment at the Orthocenter location most convenient for you. If it’s a stress fracture, we can diagnose it and develop a treatment plan so that you heal completely.