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A stress fracture is a simple problem that can escalate into something worse without proper care. It is nothing but a small break in your bone. Unlike other fractures, the problem can cause a thin crack to develop due to overuse. So, you can experience it due to repetitive force on the particular bone. Your foot and lower leg are the two most prominent places, facing the risk of such type of fractures. Do you fear such fractures in your life? Don’t worry. Get comprehensive information on it to manage and prevent the condition from affecting your life adversely.
What Is A Stress Fracture?
A stress fracture is a tiny crack that can appear on your bone due to repetitive force. So, when you use a bone repeatedly like running long distances, jumping up and down, it can result in such fractures. It can also occur due to normal use of bone affected by bone problems like osteoporosis. Such conditions can weaken the bone leading to the cracks. It is common in your weight-bearing bone of your foot or lower leg. Athletes who practice track and field event are at risk of such fractures. It can also affect military recruits (due to carrying heavyweight packs for a long-distance). If you start a new exercise regime too much too soon, then it can lead to stress fractures. The fractures are also referred to as hairline fractures.
Signs Of Stress Fracture
You may not feel any pain due to the stress fracture. But, as you continue to put pressure on the affected bones, it can result in severe pain. The signs associated with the problem are:
Location Of Fracture
You can observe hairline fractures in the second and third metatarsals of your foot. It is also common in your heel. Especially in the outer bone of your lower leg as well as the bone on top of the foot (navicular). But, it can also occur in other areas of your body.
You barely notice any pain associated with the stress fracture. But, the pain as worsens over time. You can feel pain originating from a specific spot, which reduces when you take rest. You can feel swelling around the affected area.
The problem can become severe or persistence without any medical assistance. It can escalate into a severe fracture that can trigger problems with your movement. You may feel severe pain even during rest. Therefore, it is essential to get medical help to avoid severe complications.
Causes Of Stress A Fracture
You may wonder what exactly causes a stress fracture. It mostly results due to indulging in an intense activity or increase the amount of activity too quickly. Your bone becomes unable to adapt to the change. In normal cases, bone adapts gradually to increased loads. The phenomenon is known as remodeling. It is a natural process adopted by your body when the load on your bones increases. Normally, remodeling can result in the destruction of bone tissue. The process known as resorption is followed by the rebuilding of the affected bone.
When your bone becomes subjected to unaccustomed force without sufficient time to recover can cause a problem. It leads to speedy resorption of the cell faster. Your body cannot replace the bones faster enough. So, ultimately it results in the cracks in the affected bone.
Risk Factors Associated With A Stress Fracture
Not everyone can experience the hairline fractures. It is more common among some people who come under the following categories:
Play Certain Sports
The fractures are common with people who participate in sports activities. Athletes participating in gymnastics, tennis, track, and field or basketball can suffer from the problem. Dancers who train frequently are also susceptible to the type of fractures.
The fractures can affect people who suddenly shift from a sedentary lifestyle to active training. The sudden change of training regime can put stress on your ankle and foot. Therefore, when you plan to start a workout or increase the frequency, intensity or duration of the training session, you need to make it slow. The gradual easing into the new routine will not put additional stress on the foot or ankle.
Women who are approaching their menopause can suffer from the problem more. The abnormal or absent menstrual periods indicate the fluctuation of estrogen. Low estrogen levels can weaken the bones. So, it increases the risk of developing hairline fractures.
People who experience foot problems can suffer from such fractures. So, if you have flat feet or rigid, high arches, then you face the risk of fractures. Bad footwear can also increase the chance of leg problem. Therefore, people who wear ill-fitting or worn footwear can face the risk of developing stress fractures.
Underlying health conditions, which causes weak bones put you at risk of hairline fractures. So, people suffering from conditions like osteoporosis can experience weak bones prone to fractures.
Previous Stress Fractures
If you have suffered stress fractures earlier, then you are at risk of enduring it again. One or more hairline fractures make your bone weak, which can increase your chances of developing fractures.
Lack Of Nutrients
People with eating disorders or imbalanced diet can suffer from the problem more compared to others. The lack of proper nutrients like calcium and vitamin D can make your bones brittle. So, you are more prone to develop such fractures.
People who come under any of the categories mentioned above need to take good care to avoid stress fracture. If you experience pain in your foot or ankle, then see your doctor immediately. Getting help early can avoid severe complication arising due to the problem.
Complications Due To Ignoring A Stress Fracture
Most people ignore the small fractures and try to live with the pain. But, you are making a big mistake by overlooking the pain. When such fractures fail to heal, it can trigger chronic pain. You need to address the underlying cause to ensure good healing. Else, it can put yourself at risk of additional fractures. The failure to seek the assistance of your doctor can lead to serious problems. So, you put yourself at risk of severe complications like:
Fractures Getting Worse
Stress fracture that never heals properly can result in a complete break of the bone. When the bones fail to heal and you resume your normal activities, it can put you at risk of fractures. Without medical assistance, such small fractures can trigger severe pain. It can ultimately lead to disability. Therefore, you need to get proper treatment as soon as possible.
Inability To Move
The unhealed fracture can lead to the bone defect. So, it can cause problems with your mobility. You will find it difficult to move your foot properly. It will result in issues with walking or running. Inability to find proper fitting footwear is another problem that can crop up due to defective bones. Therefore, it results in pain or discomfort during leg movement.
The inability of the bones to heal can cause the fracture to extend into a joint. The joints are the juncture where two of your bones meets. So, you can develop arthritis due to the unhealed stress fractures.
Diagnosis Of A Stress Fracture
Since the hairline fracture can escalate to something more serious without treatment, you need to see your doctor. It will help you determine the exact cause of the pain. Doctors can perform some tests to detect the problem accurately. In most cases, physical examination can provide a picture of the underlying problem. But, your doctor can suggest imaging tests for coming to a definitive conclusion.
A stress fracture can trigger burning or aching pain in the affected bone. It can escalate as you put weight on the bone. So, you can feel severe pain when you move the bone. The doctor can make you walk or run to determine the pain level. It will help identify the problem. A medical history can also shed light on the underlying cause triggering the pain.
In normal cases of fracture, your doctor can suggest x-rays to get a comprehensive image of your bones. But, stress fracture never appears on regular x-ray immediately after you complain of pain. So, it can provide information only when you have waited long to see your doctor. The evidence of such type of fractures takes a considerable amount of time (from weeks to months) to appear on the x-rays. Therefore, if you see a doctor immediately after experiencing the pain, then your doctor suggests other tests to make a proper diagnosis.
A bone scan can reveal the small fractures that do not appear immediately on the x-ray. So, the doctor gives you a small dose of radioactive material before the scan. It is provided through the intravenous line a few hours before the scan. The radioactive substance accumulates in areas that experience repairing. So, the bones that suffer from repair can appear like a bright white spot on the scan images. Unfortunately, many types of bone issues can look bright on the scans. So, your doctor cannot distinguish between the different problems. It is not a specific test to detect hairline fractures.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
The MRI scan can provide comprehensive information on the type of fracture you suffer. The imaging technique, which uses a strong magnetic field as well as radio waves can provide a detailed image of the bones and other internal structures. MRI can offer detailed visualization of stress fractures within the first week of your injury. It can also visualize stress reactions (low-grade stress injuries), which x-rays fail to pick up. It is the ideal diagnostic tool that can help your doctor distinguish between the soft tissue injuries and different types of fractures.
Treatment To Get Relief From A Stress Fracture
People suffering such type of fractures need to see their doctor immediately. Ignoring the pain can lead to the worsening of the problem. Your doctor can suggest treatment options depending on the severity of the problem. So, you have the following treatment options to overcome the problem.
Avoid Repetitive Stress
If you feel pain in the affected area, then it means your bone remains fragile in the area. So, you are at risk of breaking it again in the same region. It is better to avoid repetitive stress for at least six to eight weeks for the affected areas to heal. By stopping the activities that caused the fracture can help your bones heal. You need to get your doctor’s advice on the physical activities you can and cannot perform. Taking care of the injured ankle or foot can offer great relief.
Use Assistive Devices
To reduce the weight on your bones, your doctor can suggest using assistive devices like crutches, crutches, or walking boot. They can reduce your bone’s weight-bearing load. So, it can help with the healing of the bones. Using the crutches, braces or walking boot can keep the weight off the leg or foot. It can speed up the healing process of the bones. Therefore, you can get relief from the pain and discomfort triggered due to the problem.
Medications To Relieve Pain
The hairline fracture can cause swelling as well as pain. Therefore, your doctor can prescribe taking pain medication to relieve the discomfort associated with the problem. In most cases, you can take the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the agony associated with the type of fracture.
Although the type of fractures rarely needs surgery, it becomes necessary at times. The invasive procedure aims to heal the fracture completely. It is mostly needed for areas suffering from the poor blood supply. Surgery is the ideal option for athletes who need to heal fast and return to their sports. Surgery is also a good choice when the affected person works as laborers. Such people are more prone to a stress fracture.
The surgical procedure also known as internal fixation can help with a speedy healing. The procedure uses screws, pins or plates to hold the bones to the ankle or foot. Therefore, it helps with healing. You can resume normal work as soon as possible.
Home Remedies To Overcome A Stress Fracture
It takes some time for the bone to heal properly. Depending on the severity of the problem, the healing can take from weeks to months. So, while your bone heals, you can follow some home remedies to speed up the healing process.
You need to take rest till your stress fracture heals. Therefore, you need to stay off the affected limbs. Your doctor can suggest the methods to avoid the weight from the affected leg. Therefore, you need to follow it until the medical professional can clear you to bear normal weight.
Apply Ice Pack
Apply an ice pack on the affected area. It can reduce the swelling as well as pain associated with the type of fracture. You need to apply ice on the injured area at least 3-4 times a day to get relief. Therefore, you can apply the icing for at least fifteen minutes at a time to alleviate pain as well as swelling.
Elevate Your Foot
While you lie down, you can raise your foot. Elevating the affected foot above your heart level can speed healing. The position improves blood circulation, which can reduce the swelling and pain associated with the fracture.
Keep Diabetes Under Control
If you have high blood sugar levels, then you need to keep it under control. Diabetes can affect the healing of bones and injuries. Therefore, take your medications and follow the suggestion offered by your doctor to manage the blood sugar levels. It will help the fracture heal well.
Ease Into Your Normal Activity
You need to resume your normal activities slowly. You have to refrain from heavy work until your doctor gives you all clear. You can slowly progress from non-weight bearing activities to usual activities. People performing daily exercises need to start slow. So, you can start with swimming and slowly progress to high-impact activities like running. You can increase the time and intensity of your exercise gradually.
Preventing A Stress Fracture
It is possible to prevent stress fracture by adopting some measures in your life. It will eliminate the extra pressure on certain parts of your bone. So, you can avoid pain or any discomfort associated with the specific type of fractures.
It is essential to eat foods that can strengthen your bone. It will make you less prone to fractures. Try to include Vitamin D and calcium in your diet. With proper nutrition, you can have strong bones. If you are an athlete, then try to include calcium and Vitamin D supplements in your daily routine. It will help you avoid any bone damage.
Ease Into New Activity
When you plan to start a new physical activity, never include it suddenly. You need to take it up gradually. Your body must ease into the new activity to avoid any pressure on the bones. When you start slowly, your body conditions itself to the new activity. So, you can avoid extra stress on the bones.
If you are a fitness buff, then switch to low impact activities. Adding such exercises can avoid repetitive stress on specific parts of your body. Therefore, try to include activities like cycling or swimming to keep your body fit. It will also reduce the pressure experienced on foot as well as the ankle. The two parts of your body, face a high risk of stress fractures. So, the low-impact activities can take the pressure off your ankle and foot.
Use Of Proper Footwear
You need to provide good support to the weight-bearing parts of your foot. So, use footwear that supports such areas. The comfortable and proper footwear can offer support and avoid extra pressure on the foot and ankle. Always buy correct fitting shoes as it will avoid injuries. Choose shoes appropriate for your activities. It will help you get the necessary support without any damage to the bones. If you have flat feet, then get arch supports for your shoes. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate footwear that will avoid extra stress on your foot and ankle.
A stress fracture has a good prognosis when you get treatment as early as possible. With early intervention, you can avoid severe complications. Ignoring the problem can result in fractures or other problems. Therefore, get assistance from your doctor to alleviate the issue. You can also take steps to prevent it from affecting you again.View Article Sources