Stress Fractures in the Foot

Unlike obvious acute injuries, stress fractures have a more insidious and subtle onset. Stress fractures are small hairline cracks cause by microtrauma from overuse or repetitive normal cyclic loading on the bone. Some risk factors are a change or increase in physical activity, and even a change in shoe gear can contribute to a stress fracture. Stress fractures most often occur in the second and third metatarsal bones in the foot as these are commonly thinner and longer than the first metatarsal and so has a greater reactive force against the ground. Other common locations are the calcaneus bone in the heel and the navicular bone in the midfoot.

If stress fractures remain untreated, the condition can worsen especially during weight bearing activity so it is important to notices the signs of a stress fracture.

The followings are common symptoms to look out for in a stress fracture:

  • A non-distinct, deep, and dull achy pain
  • Pain relieved with rest and brought on by activity
  • Tenderness at the stress fracture site
  • Pain that progressively worsens
  • Swelling in the affected area

Your doctor may order x-rays to help confirm the diagnosis of a stress fracture; however, it is important to note that the stress fracture may not be seen on an x-ray early on as the fracture is so thin and minute. Other imaging studies can be ordered such as an MRI or a bone scan to further help detect a stress fracture earlier as these are more sensitive than an x-ray. Some treatments your doctor may recommend are NSAIDs, rest, ice, and elevate your foot as well as discontinuing any high-impact physical activities. Your doctor may also dispense a stiff-soled shoe or a CAM boot and have you use crutches if walking is too painful. Surgery is not routine for stress fractures as conservative treatments are often sufficient with the recovery process of 6 to 8 weeks for the fracture to heal. Call your podiatrist today for your best chance of a full recovery and restart your activities pain free after a stress fracture!

Please visit our website for more information or call 614-885-3338 (FEET) to schedule an appointment with us at our Columbus, Gahanna or Dublin, OH office.