Stress Fracture

A painful fracture in a bone of the foot

A High Impact Overuse Injury

Frequently seen in athletes, a stress fracture is a small but painful break in high impact areas of the foot. The break is caused by repetitive stress on the bone with the result being a small crack in the bone. If it is not treated properly the bone may fracture all the way through.

What is it?

A stress fracture is a small but painful fracture in a bone of the foot, most commonly seen in athletes. There are four main types of stress fractures and they can occur in different areas of the foot. The most common type is a metatarsal stress fracture, which usually occurs in in the 2nd metatarsal in the forefoot. In addition to the metatarsal bones, stress fractures can also occur in the sesamoid bones, navicular bone, or the calcaneus (heel bone). The pain is usually a sudden onset and it is usually difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of injury.

What Causes it?

Often a stress fracture is caused by repetitive force or stress on a particular bone of the foot. It is often seen in runners and others who participate in athletic activities that include running and jumping. It frequently develops for people who suddenly increase physical activity, such as army recruits or students who begin a new school sport. It can also be caused by a biomechanical issue in the gait cycle in which the foot does not offload pressure at the proper time.

What Can I do?

If you believe you may have a stress fracture you should see a doctor for a diagnosis and a treatment plan. This is important because if you continue without treatment the condition can worsen. You will need to avoid the activity that caused the stress fracture while the injury heals and avoid pressure on the foot. The doctor may have you wear a boot or another type of device to keep pressure off the area of the fracture. Your treatment plan will most likely include rest and at one point some type of orthoses for the foot. A shoe with a stiff rocker bottom will help to aid in the healing process.

It is always important to pay attention to your footwear, especially if you are participating in high impact sports. Some popular shoe companies make athletic shoes with very soft cushioning which can eventually lead to foot problems and injuries. Usually the best shoes for sports and other activities will have a firm foundation, and possibly a firm cushion – in other words, you may want to stay away from those bendy twisty shoes! Many athletes also benefit from an insole or orthotic to help properly control the motion of the foot during sports.

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