Stress Fractures of Foot and Ankle

What is it?

A stress fracture is a crack in a bone caused due to prolonged stress on the bone, or sudden impact injuries. It is most common in high-impact sports such as running or football.

Causes

  • Stress fractures are mostly caused in new athletes, especially in case of sudden change in ongoing motion
  • In some cases, osteoporosis can cause a stress fracture in the foot when the sufferer suddenly increases his physical activities, such as running, etc.

Symptoms

  • Pain that is intense when performing daily activities, but reduces when foot is at rest
  • Swelling on the top or the outside of the foot
  • Tenderness of the fracture site
  • Bruising

Diagnosis

  • The physician may initially perform preliminary tests to identify fractures, sprains or muscle torsions
  • X-ray and MRI scans may be taken

Treatment

Treatment shall vary depending upon the severity and location of the fracture. Majority of stress fractures are treated non-surgically

  • Avoiding activities that put stress on the foot
  • Protective footwear, such as shoes with stiff sole or removable brace.
  • Casting (‘’outside of the foot’ fractures)

Surgical treatment may be performed in case of severe stress fractures, or fractures of metatarsals (small bones). This may involve

  • Supporting the bones by fasteners
  • Fixing of bones by screws/ pins/ plates to keep the small bones in place together

Normal recovery period for stress fractures is 6-8 weeks, but more severe fractures can take longer for total recovery. One can return to normal activity after plenty of rest during the recovery period.