Stress Fracture

Lincoln Park Podiatry

Podiatrist located in Lincoln Park | Lakeview, Chicago, IL

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone because of repeated stress on the bone. Stress fractures cause pain when you put pressure on that fractured part of the foot. It feels better with rest. Stress fractures can be caused by overusing the foot in activities like running or by starting a new activity you’re not used to. This is especially true if your bones are weaker because of osteoporosis. Stress fractures can also happen in the bones at the ball of your foot from wearing high heels, or walking too far in unsupportive shoes. 

Treatment for Stress Fractures in Lakeview, IL

Stress fractures are incomplete breaks in the bone. In our office, we see stress fractures in metatarsals, the long bones of the forefoot. Pain and swelling are nearly always on the top of the foot, not the bottom, and usually about an inch behind the base of the toes.

On the first exam, x-rays are ordered and when they are read it is not unusual for the x-ray not to show the fracture line because the fracture does not go across the entire shaft of the bone. However, the symptoms will produce a high level of suspicion for fracture, and treatment as such is very important. Treatment depends on the location and extent of the fracture.

If a stress fracture is not cared for with rest and immobilization, the bone can fracture the entire way and then become unstable and it will not heal properly. At the least, stiff-soled shoes are recommended and a cast or walker boot or surgical shoe is given depending on the x-ray findings and severity. Sometimes a dressing is applied to reduce edema and relieve pain and crutches are given if necessary.

Sometimes a bone stimulator is prescribed to hasten and optimize the healing environment. It is common for the fracture to take two to four months to heal. If the fracture is not healing, surgery is needed to plate and secure the fracture for healing. X-rays are repeated in about 1-3 months. Physical therapy is rarely needed.