What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is a common overuse injury most often seen in athletes. They occur when a repetitive force occurs for a long period of time. Stress fractures are commonly seen in athletes who run and jump on hard surfaces, such as distance runners, basketball players, and ballet dancers.
A stress fracture can occur in any bone, but is commonly seen in the foot and shin bones. They rarely occur in the upper extremity because the weight of your body is not supported by your arms as it is in your legs.
How is a stress fracture diagnosed?
Physical examination and history are important in diagnosing stress fractures. X-Rays usually do not show a stress fracture, but they may show evidence of bone attempting to heal around the stress fracture. Further studies, including an ultra sound, MRI or bone scan may be necessary if the diagnosis is unclear or if the problem does not resolve with treatment.
Why did I get a stress fracture?
Stress fractures are usually seen in athletes who increase their level of activity over a short period of time. The increased demand placed on the bone causes the bone to remodel and become stronger in the areas of higher stress. However, if the response of the bone cannot maintain the pace of the repetitive demands, a stress fracture may result.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of a stress fracture are dietary abnormalities and menstrual irregularities, as both factors contribute to bone health. This is one reason that adolescent female athletes are at particularly high risk for development of a stress fracture.
What is the treatment for a stress fracture?
- The best treatment is almost always resting the injured leg.
- If there is no evidence that the stress fracture may displace, then avoiding the overuse activity may be sufficient treatment.
- Use of insoles, cast and crutches can reduce pressure on the injured area and aid healing. Contrast therapy can also help to reduce pain and inflammation and increase blood supply to the area.
- One rule of thumb is: if there is pain, don’t do it.