Stress fractures are most common in the bones of your feet and legs, and as the name suggests, they’re tiny cracks. Athletes, people who suddenly change their level of activity, and people in the military who carry heavy packs over long distances are all at an increased risk of stress fractures.
At Orthocenter, our expert providers have treated many patients who waited too long to get treatment for a stress fracture. When you first develop a stress fracture, you may notice the pain but it may not be significant, and it likely eases with rest. If you’re feeling persistent pain with activity, even if it isn’t too bad, seek treatment.
The weight-bearing bones of your feet and legs work hard, even under normal circumstances. With each step, those bones absorb impact and carry your weight. Add in jumping or running, or any activity that increases the force those bones must bear, and you’re at risk of a stress fracture.
There are a few things that can increase your risk of getting a stress fracture. For example, women are more likely than men to sustain one, and people with flat feet or high arches are more likely to develop a stress fracture.
At first you may not pay much attention to the pain from a stress fracture. You may mistake it for a normal sort of ache. But a stress fracture worsens over time and with activity, and you may begin to have some swelling.
Once you become aware that the pain is worsening, you should get treatment. You may notice some tenderness around the area, or even see some bruising.
As you might expect, giving your bones time to heal is the most important step in treating a stress fracture. This can be a difficult part of the process for athletes.
It usually takes about 6-8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. During that time, you may need to use the classic RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to ease the pain and swelling.
Other treatments depend on the location and severity of your injury. Your doctor may suggest protective footwear, a cast, or other measures. In some cases, surgery is necessary to stabilize your bones.
There are several potential complications if a stress fracture is left untreated. The injury could worsen and become a full-blown fracture, for example. Also, the longer a stress fracture isn’t treated, the longer it’s likely to take to heal.
Another possibility is that it could heal improperly and lead to chronic problems. Resting for 6-8 weeks is a far better option than living with a lifelong problem.
Finally, an untreated stress fracture can lead to avascular necrosis, which is the death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply.
If you’re having pain that tends to get better when you rest and worsen when you’re active, don’t wait to get treatment. The sooner you learn that you have a stress fracture, the more likely it is to heal properly and you can resume the activities you enjoy.
Schedule an appointment at any of the three convenient locations of Orthocenter in Red Bank, Morganville, and Holmdel, New Jersey, with a simple phone call. We’ll be happy to help.