Stress Fractures: the How and Why

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a break in the bone caused by repetitive actions. Often a very small crack, they often go unnoticed until the pain becomes too intense to continue the activity. The pain will continue to worsen with time. These repeated actions can range from running, playing basketball, gymnastics or any other repetitive force to the bone. Stress fractures are an overuse injury. I asked Dr. N. Michael Baddar the following questions to get to the bottom of the how and why of stress fractures.

How common are stress fractures in an urgent care?

“We don’t see many in the urgent care setting but when we do, they’re usually in the foot.”

Will an x-ray always show a stress fracture?

“Not necessarily. Often they don’t show up on an x-ray. These are very tiny cracks and often go unseen. After 2 weeks, once the body has begun the healing process, we can see the stress fracture as white in the bone that was injured.”

What are some common symptoms of a stress fracture?

“Common symptoms for a stress fracture can range from tenderness to the touch, bruising, pain that goes away with rest and swelling.”

Is it possible to prevent stress fractures?

“Yes. If you’re doing an activity such as a sport, start out gradually. A sharp increase in activity can can cause a stress fracture. Bone adapts over time to activity and doing too much too soon can make you more susceptible.”

“Use proper shoes for the activity you’re doing. For running, wear shoes that are well cushioned and for your type of foot. Make sure to change them every 90 days or every 500 miles of running. Cross training also reduces stress fracture risk. You get the effects of aerobic activity without the pounding on your bones. And make sure you get enough vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D can lead to weakness in the bones and lead to stress fractures.”

How are stress fractures treated?

“Rest is the treatment for stress fractures. Continuing to do activity on a stress fracture can cause a bigger break and an even longer healing period. A boot or walking brace and crutches can be used if needed to reduce stress on the broken bone. The body needs time and rest to heal a stress fracture.”

You do become more susceptible to stress fractures once you have had one. So be mindful, aware of your body and pain levels. If it hurts, stop. And come into In and Out Express Care and let us help you feel better fast!