Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, or severe bruising within a bone. Stress fractures commonly occur in athletes, causing pain and tenderness around the affected area of the foot. Resting and adjusting your physical activity may be required for the proper healing of a stress fracture.

What You Need to Know About Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

What is a Stress Fracture?

Your foot contains five long bones known as the metatarsals. The metatarsals are vital for weight-bearing activities like walking, running, and jumping. Over time, the impact of these activities causes a stress reaction in these bones. Eventually, the bone experiences enough trauma to tear, bruise, or break.

While stress fractures of the foot and ankle rarely displace the bones, they may cause pain and swelling that compromises mobility. As a result, you may notice swelling, pain, or bruising in your heel, the outer bone of your leg and ankle, in your ankle joint, or on the top of your foot.

Getting the best stress fractures foot treatment starts with a visit to Resurgens Foot & Ankle Center. Visit our experts in stress fracture foot treatment at one of our Metro Atlanta locations!

What Causes Stress Fractures?

Stress fractures of the foot and ankle can be caused by a lifetime of strain on weight-bearing bones in the foot and leg. People who engage in activities like walking, running, and jumping are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

Stress fractures can occur when people change their activities. Trying a new exercise, or suddenly increasing the intensity of a workout may cause stress fractures of the foot or ankle.

Sometimes stress fractures can be caused by changes in workout surface, for example, jogging on a treadmill vs. jogging outdoors. Changing exercise surfaces introduces new stresses on your bones, which can result in a stress fracture.

Stress fractures can also be related to conditions like osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Foot Stress Fracture Symptoms

Symptoms of stress fractures include:

  • Pain, especially when the affected bone is touched.
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Your symptoms may fluctuate depending on your activity. For example, you may not feel it while at rest but notice symptoms when you resume movement.

How are Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle Diagnosed?

During your consultation at Resurgens Orthopaedics, one of our physicians will ask a series of questions regarding the origin and severity of your symptoms and your medical history. Learning more about whether you have been diagnosed previously with any bone density loss, osteoporosis, or other bone-affecting afflictions can help us strategize your treatment.

Additionally, the use of diagnostic technology may help us get a better sense of your needs. X-rays often determine whether the bone has been fractured, but in some cases, bone scans or MRIs may be necessary for proper diagnosis. After a thorough analysis, we will determine the best plan for your healing process.

Foot Stress Fracture Treatment

Refraining from high-impact activities for an adequate period is key to recovering from a stress fracture in the foot or ankle. Returning to activity too quickly can delay the healing process and increase the risk of a complete fracture. Should a complete fracture occur, it will take far longer to recover and return to activities.

In cases where a complete fracture occurs, the patient will endure a more strenuous and lengthy healing process, often involving surgery.

Non-Surgical Treatment

After abstaining from high-impact activities, a few simple life adjustments help avoid increased bone pain and speed along the healing process.

  • Rest: For best results, rest the area of impact as much as possible
  • Ice and elevation: To reduce swelling and pain, elevate your foot regularly and ice the affected area
  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol reduce aches as well as swelling. In cases of severe discomfort, your physician may prescribe medications to ease your injury
  • Braces, protective footwear, and casts: Your physician might prescribe protective footwear, braces, casts, or crutches to keep you from bending and further impacting the damaged bone. These devices support your bones, keeping them appropriately positioned and helping reduce the total weight placed on your bones.

Surgical Treatment

Some foot fractures may require surgery. In this case, a Resurgens Orthopaedic surgeon carefully inserts a screw, plate, or pin to hold your bone together as it heals properly.

Don't let pain from stress fractures slow you down. Schedule an appointment at one of our Foot & Ankle Centers to learn about your options.

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