What Makes Stress Fractures Different From a Normal Fracture?

July 05, 2017 Posted by Lindsay Lopez

Stress fractures differ from regular fractures in that they are cracks in the bone opposed to a complete break through the bone. Stress fractures are very common in the foot and lower extremity due to the mechanical load from our bodies. In the foot they are most commonly seen in the second and third metatarsals. Overuse and repetitive forces cause stress fractures. This overuse can be from a runner who increases their mileage too quickly or from any increase in activity or change in activity.

People who suffer from stress fractures generally have pain in a very specific spot on their foot, ankle, or leg. Diagnosis can be a little tricky in that stress fractures are not seen right away on x-rays. This takes a couple of weeks to visualize and by the time it is seen on x-ray, the stress fracture has already started to heal. The healing of the stress fracture seen on x-ray is called callus formation. To get more of a definitive diagnosis of a stress fracture right away your doctor can order an MRI or bone scan.

Treatment for stress fractures is rest. If a patient was to continue their increased activity while having a stress fracture this could result in a complete fracture and would increase the recovery time. Sometimes your doctor may put you in a surgical shoe or walking boot in order to decrease the stress. Ice and elevation are also important for the recovery process. For those who wish to keep their conditioning up while recovering from a stress fracture, aqua jogging and swimming can be good options.

–Dr. Colleen Law

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