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Stress Fracture

What Is a Stress Fracture?

shutterstock_112236116_redcucedA stress fracture is a fracture of a bone that’s so fine that it sometimes isn’t detected on an X-ray. It’s caused by stress that’s placed on the bone. It’s no wonder that these types of fractures happen very often in the foot, since the foot must withstand a great deal of abuse. A person’s heel is well-padded and usually doesn’t suffer as often as the metatarsals, the little bones between the toes and the top of the foot.

People are especially susceptible to stress fractures when they increase their level of activity. Interestingly, instead of growing denser, the bone that’s being put under the new stress starts to get rid of some of its old bone tissue in order to build new bone. This makes the bone vulnerable to the fracture.

At first, stress fractures draw attention to themselves by being tender as opposed to painful. The person might feel a tender spot when he or she puts on shoes, and the area might not hurt at all while he or she is engaged in his or her usual activity. One way to see if a person might have a stress fracture is to touch a suspicious spot on his or her foot. If it’s tender but the area around it isn’t, it might be a stress fracture. If the fracture is ignored, it begins to hurt more and more.

Indeed, ignoring these fractures can lead to a real fracture where the bone actually breaks. When that happens, the person will have to go through all of the medical and therapeutic procedures that are used to heal a broken bone.

The irony of these kinds of fractures is they tend not to get better as quickly as they could if the patient rests completely. The trick is to get enough painless exercise to help the bone become stronger. Though it’s fine for the patient to rest for a day or two, after that he or she will need to start exercising. The exercise can be gentle and brief at first but become more intense as time goes on. Runners can walk about three minutes on the first day, then six minutes the next day if it’s painless. Eventually, the walking can graduate to running. The patient and a doctor at the Heel Pain Center of Atlanta might work out an exercise plan.

In between the exercises, the patient can ease the fracture with icing. Supportive shoes and boots can also help stabilize the bone. Taking alternate hot and cold foot baths are also good. If the pain persists no matter what happens, the patient should arrange for a consultation with a doctor at the Heel Pain Center of Atlanta.