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McDowell Podiatry
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Rock Solid Advice on Stress Fractures

Gravity, temperature, moisture, sediment, and plate movement can all put stress on a rock formation. When the force is too much, the responses to that stress are fractures and faults. In the same way, when the bones in your foot are put under a lot of pressure, they form cracks called stress fractures. If you’re not careful to manage this problem, it could become a full-out break in the bone.

What Are These Fissures?

xray of foot fractureThis condition isn’t a full fracture—yet. It’s a small crack in the foot bone that develops from overuse. They mostly occur in the lower leg and foot because those areas of the body bear the most weight; hence receive the most stress. They also occur with conditions, like osteoporosis, that cause bones to become brittle.

The metatarsals, heel, outer leg (fibula) bone, and navicular bone on the top of the foot by the ankle, are the most common areas that can develop this type of fracture.

Why Cracks Happen

Stress fractures are common in athletes, but can also occur in people who start an exercise regimen too suddenly. I think we’ve all been there—trying to run 4 miles when we haven’t run in two years, or hopping on the bandwagon to try the newest fitness craze. When you’re doing any activity that requires a lot of jumping, running, and repetitive motions, you should know that you’re at risk of developing a stress fracture. You’re putting a lot of extra force on your bones that aren’t used to bearing that kind of weight.

Your shoes, too worn or too stiff, can also be a catalyst in creating these cracks, as can running on a harder surface than usual. Conditions like bunions or blisters can cause you to place abnormal pressure on the foot, which can also create this problem.  

How do they Develop?

Your muscles get tired. In fact, they get so tired that they give up! The normal job they have of lessening the blow of shock to your feet becomes a thing of the past. Instead, your bones have to pick up the slack and receive all of the pressure. When this happens, the stress can be too much for the bones, which causes them to crack.

What Does a Crack in the Bone Feel Like?

The pain starts small, but may increase when you bear weight and decrease when you sit down. After a while, the pain will get severe, even when you’re going about your normal activities. Visible symptoms include bruising and swelling on the outside of your ankle and on the top of your foot. If you reach down to feel the area, it might be tender where the fracture is located.

Rock on! Our Treatment Plans for Pain

The best thing you can do is rest, ice, and elevate your foot. Taking oral anti-inflammatory medications may also help reduce inflammation and pain. After you’ve treated the initial pain, make an appointment with Dr. Brian McDowell and Dr. Gavin P. Ripp at McDowell Podiatry Group.

If we diagnose that you have a stress fracture, we’ll suggest that you rest from whatever activity that gave you this problem. Four to eight weeks is the general time frame for the bone to heal completely. You might need to use crutches and wear a boot or cast. In rare cases, we’ll discuss surgery as an option.

Once we give you the “all clear,” you can go back to your normal activities. This time, start your exercises at a low-impact level with well-fitting shoes that aren’t worn out. Work your way up to high-impact activities that require repetitive stress on your feet. Also, alternate the days you perform high impact exercises with days of low-impact activities like swimming and bike riding.

If you feel any pain from stress fractures, stop, rest, and call the McDowell Podiatry Group in Carmichael, CA, at (916) 961-3434. We’d love to help you while you rest and recover. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Now, rock on!