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Stress Fractures

What are stress fractures?

Anatomy of the foot
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A stress fracture is a very small, fine break in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often occur in the foot after training for basketball, running, and other sports. While stress fractures can occur in many bones that are subjected to repetitive activities, the bones of the legs and feet are at greatest risk. The bones in the midfoot (metatarsals) in runners are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

What are the symptoms of a foot stress fracture?

A stress fracture may not cause obvious swelling. But symptoms can occur a bit differently in each person. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the front of the foot, often after long or intense bouts of exercise

  • Pain that goes away after exercise, then returns when exercise is continued

The symptoms of stress fractures can be like other health conditions. Always see your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is a stress fracture diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a stress fracture usually is confirmed with a complete health history and a physical exam. X-rays often cannot see stress fractures because they are so fine. So a bone scan or an MRI may be done. Once calluses form around the fracture, an X-ray can confirm a stress fracture.

Treatment for a stress fracture

Treeatment is aimed at relieving pain and giving the fracture time to heal, usually around 6 to 8 weeks. Specific treatment for a stress fracture will depend on:

  • Your age, overall health, and health history

  • How serious your injury is

  • How well you are able to handle certain medicines, procedures, and therapies

  • How long your injury is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Protection of the fracture site with reduced weight bearing

  • Cold packs

  • Medicine such as ibuprofen

  • Shock-absorbing shoes to use during exercise

  • Running on soft surfaces, such as grass

  • Physical therapy

  • Switching to a less stressful activity, such as swimming or biking

  • Wearing a brace or cast

Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/9/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.