Stress Fracture Treatment

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Make sure that you aren’t over-exerting yourself in your exercise routine, or your bones may fall victim to stress fractures. A stress fracture is a small crack or severe bruising in a bone due to overuse and repetitive activity after your muscles are already fatigued. Your muscles, when suffering from overuse, will become unable to absorb shock, transfer the stress to the bone, and cause the bone to crack.

This injury is mostly found in the weight-bearing bones of your lower legs, like your foot or ankle. Stress fractures are caused by a workout without transition like increasing your workout intensity without any transition, trying out a new exercise you may not be prepared for, or changing the surface you exercise on like going from a treadmill to outdoors. Athletes who partake in sports like tennis, basketball, gymnastics or run cross-country are most susceptible to stress fractures, especially if they do not take the time to rest.

Female athletes tend to have a higher risk of stress fracture than males. This may be due to women having lower bone density, which can be caused by extremes in diet and exercise due to eating disorders, a requirement for a sport, menstrual dysfunction, and even premature osteoporosis.

Symptoms you may feel from a stress fracture include swelling, tenderness, pain and sometimes bruising. Pain will worsen with any weight-bearing activity but usually lessens during night. Sometimes, a stress fracture may be mistaken for a shin splint, an inflammation injury in the shin that mostly affects runners, but stress fractures are more serious. Either way, you should definitely consult a doctor if you are feeling this pain; ignoring the pain may cause your bone to eventually break.

If any part of your leg has experienced a stress fracture, it is extremely important for you to get rest; you may have to be put on rest for 4 to 12 weeks. Avoid any activities where you have to stress your injured foot and wear comfortable shoes that offer good sole support. Your exercise routine may have to be modified, so opt for low-impact workouts like swimming and cycling, but make sure they don’t put any pressure on the area. You will also probably ice your foot to keep swelling down, compress your foot by wrapping it with a bandage, and keep your feet up to elevate it and help it heal. You can also take anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for persistent pain relief, but you should be careful with these as they hinder bone repair.

Usually, a stress fracture can be treated using just the aforementioned methods, but severe stress fractures may require surgery to fix the bone and prevent it from being damaged further. If you need surgery, it will usually take around six months.

Stress fractures are risky for people who:

  • Participate in high-impact sports
  • Have low bone density
  • Begin incorporating high intensity exercise suddenly into their routine
  • Bones are not fully developed (aka adolescence)

To learn more about Stress Fracture treatment options in the Fort Myers, Estero and Naples area, contact Orthopedic Center of Florida.