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Stress Fractures

What are stress fractures?

Anatomy of the foot
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Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often occur in the foot after training for basketball, running, and other sports. 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 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 CT scan or an MRI may be done. Once calluses form around the fracture, an X-ray can confirm a stress fracture. Sometimes a bone scan is done to find a stress fracture.

Treatment for a stress fracture

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

  • 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: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/29/2012
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