Stress Fractures consist of a small crack, or fracture, in one of the bones of the foot or lower leg. They are most common in the the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg, either in the second and third bones of the mid-foot (metatarsals), the heel (calcaneus), the outer bone of the lower leg (fibula), and the navicular, which is a bone located on the top of the midfoot.
Types of Fractures
The two main types of fractures that occur in the foot and lower leg are metatarsal, which occurs in the main bones of the foot, and phalangeal, which refers to a toe fracture.
Fractures in the foot or lower leg can be caused by many factors, a few of which are listed below:
- Sports and other athletic injuries
- Tripping and/or falling
- Kicking a hard object
- Repeated stress on the bones
These occur due to repetitive injury and overusing a bone or joint are the leading causes of Stress Fractures. Some bones in the lower extremity are weakened by osteoporosis. Most stress fractures occur in the in the bones of the lower leg and the foot, like the metatarsals, that are responsible for weight bearing. Studies have shown that athletes in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are considered high risk for stress fractures.
Symptoms of Stress Fractures
Regardless of whether you have a metatarsal or a phalangeal fracture, they share the same common symptoms:
- Gradual pain that continues to develop, increases with weight on the foot or lower leg, and lessens when rested
- Bruising and/or swelling of the area
- Redness and/or tenderness of the area
- Difficulty putting weight on the affected foot
Treatment For Fractures
Before a treatment plan is determined, an X-ray, or in occasional cases, an MRI or CT scan must be ordered to determine if there is indeed a fracture as well as specifically where it is located.
Treatment for a fracture in the foot or lower leg is dependent on where the fracture is located as well as the severity of the injury. Common treatment options include:
- Taping, as in taping a fractured toe to an adjacent toe
- Protective footwear, such as stiff-soled shoes
- Protective cast
- Surgery (in rare cases)
Source: Mayo Clinic
Factors that could increase your risk of a fracture include:
- Participation in sports that are considered high-risk, such as basketball, gymnastics, tennis, track, and dance
- Increase in intense activity
- Foot problems, such as flat feet or high rigid arches
- Weakened bone conditions, such as osteoporosis
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Source: Mayo Clinic
To ensure that you have a full understanding of your condition and ensuring the best chances for healing in a timely manner, you will want to fully understand your specific injury as well as any treatment involved. Your doctor will want to know:
- Any activities that make your symptoms better or worse
- Any other medical conditions
- Medications and supplements that you take on a regular basis
Keeping your doctor accurately informed is the key to successful treatment. Any change in habits, or things that are out of the norm for you, are things you will want to present to your doctor.
Recovery time from a foot fracture depends on the severity of your injury, its location, and the overall state of your health. Be sure to ask if there are any limitations in regards to physical activity, and be sure to follow your doctor’s follow-up instructions closely. Make the necessary appointments for follow-up treatment and checkups, and be sure to keep the appointments.
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