Stress fractures are small cracks that occur in the bones of the foot and ankle. They can be caused a number of different ways. The most common cause is overuse or repetitive forces, like walking an extra-long time or jumping up and down. Stress fractures occur when you’ve over used your foot bones, and do not allow enough time for your foot bones to recover and strengthen up, due to new loads.
Stress fractures can also be caused by certain metabolic conditions such as osteoporosis, thyroid disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or other autoimmune diseases. Mal-nutrition and pregnancy can also cause stress fractures. They tend to be are more common in teens and young adult athletes, especially females. The increased risk of stress fractures in teens and young adults is due to repetitive high intensity training, training diets and eating habits.
Detecting a Stress Fracture
Stress fractures can be hard to diagnose and treat because the symptoms are often vague and they tend improve with rest. Stress fractures are often missed or not diagnosed right away because the symptoms can change in location and intensity. A person might visit three or four doctors before a stress fracture is diagnosed. Delay in diagnosis and treatment of stress fractures can have long term affects in feet and lead to compensatory pain in your other limbs and joints, like knee, hip
and low back. If you have pain that comes and goes with activity, and gets better with rest, but has a tendency to return and get worse with activity, you could have a stress fracture.
The best way a person can detect a stress fracture is to have a high level of suspicion. If you’ve had pain in your foot more than a week and think you might have a stress fracture of your foot and, it’s important to make an appointment for evaluation as soon as possible to help prevent any further damage from occurring.
X-rays are usually negative when first taken. Stress fractures will only be seen after actual bone healing starts. Other imaging studies such as a bone scan or MRI can assist in diagnosing a stress fracture, but the only way to properly diagnose a stress fracture is have it evaluated by a medical professional, who has been trained in diagnosing and treating stress fractures. Stress fractures must have a high level of clinical suspicion to be diagnosed. Immobilization and cessation from
activities is usually required for a period of three to six weeks to allow the stress fracture to heal.