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What Are Stress Fractures Of The Feet?

stress fractureWhat is a Stress Fracture?

Most simply, a stress fracture is a small crack occurring in a bone. Stress fractures commonly occur in the second and third metatarsals, but may also occur in other bones of the foot.

What are the Symptoms Of A Stress Fracture?

Pain is the most obvious symptom of this anomaly. The pain may not be constant and will often reduce with rest, and increase with (especially weight-bearing) activity. Pain may be elicited upon palpation or vibration over the site. Often there is no acute traumatic event. Swelling may, or may not, be present.

What Causes A Stress Fracture in the Foot?

The occurrence of a stress fracture is often a result of an overuse activity. This may of a repetitive nature, and/or a result of an increase or change in activity. For example, long distance running, increasing the amount of running sessions, and/or changing running surface from grass to road. Poor lower limb biomechanics may also be a factor, particularly if your foot function is inefficient or atypical. Underlying medical conditions which effect bone density may also be a risk factor, such as osteoporosis, osteopenia and eating disorders.

How Is A Stress Fracture Diagnosed?

Initially, Xrays may be taken of the symptomatic foot. However, especially in the acute stages, a stress fracture may not be detected on an Xray, and a Bone Scan may be required. MRI is also a useful tool for diagnosis.

How Do You Treat Stress Fractures?

Rest is very important to relieve the foot of any excessive load. In line with this, a patient will often be fitted with a walking boot, or crutches. As the fracture heals, (usually in 6-8 weeks), a slow return to activity is recommended. Initially this will involve just normal weight bearing, before considering returning to occupations that require increased standing or activity, and exercise. Your podiatrist may guide you as to when it is suitable to return to your activity of choice, depending on the demands on your foot. A review of all footwear is also important, including sporting, occupational and recreational. Ensure your shoes are not worn out and/or distorted. A firm, flat sole with adequate support is also recommended.

For The Future

When you are able to return to normal weight-bearing and exercise, consider alternating your physical activities and sport, to reduce the risk of repetition. Visit your podiatrist for a biomechanical assessment to review foot function and analyse your gait. Review your diet to ensure it contains everything your body needs for health and nutrition. Replace your footwear regularly. Wear shoes that are suitable for the activity you have chosen, and your foot type.

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