Stress Fractures 101

Because the feet support the weight of your entire body, it should come as no surprise that they are prone to stress fractures. A stress fracture typically occurs during overuse or repetitive activities, such as running on the treadmill or playing tennis, where the feet are hitting the ground with increased force. However, normal aging, as well as medical conditions, can also make the bones in the feet more susceptible to a stress fracture. Here's what you need to know.

Is A Stress Fracture A Broken Bone?

A stress fracture means the breaks happen over time rather than in one clean break, or a single incident. This means you will likely have some soreness and intermittent pain leading up to the actual fracture, but this is more akin to microscopic bone damage rather than a break, such as falling and breaking your leg.

Where Do Stress Fractures Occur?

Each foot has 26 main bones, which is a lot of bones when you consider the entire human body has only 206 bones total. Because the feet get the brunt of carrying around your body, they naturally have a complex building structure. The most common place for a stress fracture is the top of the foot in the metatarsal bones. These are the bones that essentially connect from your toes to your ankles.

Why Do Stress Fractures Happen?

While exercise is a good thing, the repetitive nature of the movements can begin to wear joints and bones down over time. Bone cells are always in a state of renewal, but sometimes, especially with extra activity or increasing age, the cells aren't renewing as fast as they are breaking down. This creates the ideal situation for a stress fracture to occur. Athletes are particularly prone to these kinds of injuries as they exercise, practice, and play the game.

Stress fractures are also common when people are sedentary but then have a sudden spurt in activity. This may be purposeful, such as a new resolution to exercise, or it may just be inadvertent, such as going on vacation and walking far more than usual. Osteoporosis and poorly fitting shoes may also contribute to a stress fracture.

How Are Stress Fractures Treated?

Podiatrists are your best options for treating stress fractures in your feet, they specialize in anything involving your feet. At your first visit to the podiatrist, they will likely take an x-ray to see what is going on where. A minor fracture will be treated with reduced activity, NSAIDS, compression, and elevation. More serious fractures will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with treatment ranging from a cast to surgery to pin the fracture together. For more information, talk to experts like Laurel Podiatry Associates, LLC.