Staying fit and remaining active are important goals, but sometimes those healthy choices come with a surprising cost. Repetitive overuse of specific areas of the feet and legs may cause a stress fracture that can lead to serious pain and weeks of downtime.
Causes of Stress Fractures in Podiatry Patients
The small bone crack of a stress fracture often takes place due to an increase in exercise activities. These tiny but painful fractures are a particular concern for those who haven’t been exercising and decide to start but begin too quickly and too strenuously.
You also run the risk of developing a stress fracture with any sudden change in how you engage in your regular physical activities. Using incorrect form during new exercises or even shifting from running on the treadmill at home to running on a gravel road outside can result in a stress fracture.
Simply being up and moving on a regular basis places stress on the weight-bearing bones in your ankles, feet, and legs. Even walking on the same uneven surfaces every single day to work and back, for instance, comes with a stress fracture risk.
People who aren’t physically active are also susceptible to this problem. Bones weakened by other conditions like osteoporosis can suffer stress fractures even if you don’t engage in regular strenuous activity. Conditions you might not have considered can also play a role. Wearing the same shoes for years can be problematic, for instance, because areas that absorb shock are worn down over time.
Activities That Can Cause Stress Fractures
- Carrying heavy boxes at work
- Rock climbing
- Track and field
Symptoms of Stress Fractures
Patients typically notice pain in the affected area that gets worse during any activity where that part of your body has to bear weight. When dealing with a stress fracture, the pain often recedes during times of rest. You may also experience swelling and tenderness on the top of the feet.
While stress fractures often appear in the metatarsals near the top of the foot, they can also cause problems for the calcaneus (ankle), sesamoids (ball of the foot), or other bones in your lower extremities.
The specific location of the stress fracture will drastically impact your overall recovery time. Some areas of the foot naturally receive less blood flow than others. When stress fractures occur in these areas, the healing time can last longer.
How to Treat a Stress Fracture
It is crucial to address the issue early before a stress fracture gets worse and puts you out of action for a longer period. There are things you can do at home to address the symptoms such as applying ice to reduce swelling and elevating the foot while you rest.
If you are experiencing any foot pain at all, your first priority should be to make an appointment with an experienced podiatrist for a diagnosis. Pain and tenderness in the feet could have other causes, so a medical professional is necessary to rule out other issues before deciding on a course of treatment.
From there, your podiatrist can craft a personalized plan for how to best help you get back on your feet and return to your normal activities without unnecessary pain.
Potential Treatment for a Stress Fracture
- Anti-inflammatory meds for swelling
- Customized orthopedics to reduce stress and pressure on the affected areas of the foot or ankle
- Using a cast and crutches to stay off the injured foot
- Surgery for more severe cases, or in situations where athletes need to return to regular repetitive foot motions.