Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. Stress fractures are caused by the repetitive application of force, often by overuse — such as repeatedly jumping up and down or running long distances. Stress fractures can also arise from normal use of a bone that's been weakened by a condition such as osteoporosis.
Stress fractures are most common in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. Track and field athletes are particularly susceptible to stress fractures, but anyone can experience a stress fracture. If you're starting a new exercise program, for example, you may be at risk if you do too much too soon.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone — most commonly, in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. ...
Symptoms of a stress fracture include:
At first, stress fractures may be barely noticeable. But pay attention to the pain. Proper self-care and treatment can keep the stress fracture from worsening.
When to see a doctor
Stress fractures are caused by the repetitive application of a greater amount of force than the bones of your feet and lower legs normally bear. This force causes an imbalance between the resorption and growth of bone, both of which go on all the time. Repetitive force promotes the turnover of bone cells, but you add new bone cells when you're at rest.
If your bones are subjected to unaccustomed force without enough time for recovery, you'll resorb bone cells faster than you can replace them. As a result, you develop "bone fatigue." Continued, repetitive force causes tiny cracks in fatigued bones. These cracks progress to become stress fractures.
Factors that may increase your risk of stress fractures include:
Some stress fractures don't heal properly. This may lead to chronic pain. If underlying causes are not addressed, you may be at higher risk of additional stress fractures.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to first bring your concerns to the attention of your family doctor. If you are a competitive athlete, you might go directly to a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal problems.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
While doctors can sometimes diagnose a stress fracture from the medical history and physical exam alone, imaging tests are often needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment varies depending on the location of the stress fracture and on how quickly you need to resume activity.
Lifestyle and home remedies
It's important to give the bone time to heal. This may take several months or even longer. In the meantime:
Simple steps can help you prevent stress fractures.
Last Updated: 2010-12-07
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