What Are Stress Fractures?
Stress fractures are miniscule bone cracks caused by repetitive force. Overuse of the bones, like jumping up and down repeatedly or long-distance running, often provides that repetitive force. Stress fractures are also common in people with osteoporosis, who may have bones weak enough to fracture from normal use.
Stress fractures are most often seen in the bones of the lower leg and foot, which are weight-bearing. Military recruits or laborers who carry heavy packs over long distances are at high risk, as are track and field athletes. That said, anyone can have a stress fracture. Just starting a new exercise program too rapidly can cause those tiny cracks to develop.
When a stress fracture occurs, it is usually very painful and can even hinder your ability to walk.
Symptoms and Causes of Stress Fractures
It is important to be alert for the signs of stress fractures, which are usually noticed through localized pain. The tenderness usually starts at a specific place and decreases during rest. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain that goes away during rest
- Pain that starts and gets worse during normal, day-to-day activities
- Swelling on the top of the foot or on outside of the ankle
High-impact sports or activities, such as basketball, dance, or gymnastics or tennis are all risk factors. Overly ambitious and new exercise routines can also be a cause of stress fractures. Women, people with flat feet or high, rigid arches, weakened bones, low nutrients, and previous stress fractures should exercise extra precaution, as they are at a higher risk. Some stress fractures don’t heal properly and can cause chronic pain. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to prevent this common injury.
Prevention of Stress Fractures
There are a number of ways you can decrease your risk for developing a stress fracture:
- Start any new exercise program slowly and progress gradually.
- Avoid increasing the amount of exercise by more than ten percent per week.
- Wear good-fitting shoes appropriate for your activity level.
- Flat-footed individuals should ask a podiatrist about arch supports for their shoes.
- Cross-training is also crucial. Adding low-impact activities to your exercise program can prevent repetitive stress on a particular part of your body.
- Proper nutrition is also key. Make sure your diet has enough calcium, Vitamin D, and other nutrients to keep your bones strong.
When to Seek Medical Attention
As soon as you notice pain in a particular part of your body, particularly those prone to stress fractures, you should seek the help of a physician. Treating stress fractures early and aggressively will help prevent them in the future.
If you have a stress fracture that needs attention, the experienced providers at San Antonio Podiatry can help. We have years of experience diagnosing and treating not only stress fractures, but also plantar fasciitis, bunions, and much more. Check out our locations to find an office near you. Book an appointment online with one of our podiatrists, or call 210-405-7672.