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What Is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture refers to an injury that develops commonly in the ankle or the foot. A fracture is a break or crack in the bone, and you might associate this injury with an acute, traumatic blow. On the other hand, a stress fracture develops over time due to overuse.

Your muscles absorb the impact and shock of running, walking, and other physical activities. But if muscles grow fatigued, they cannot absorb as well as they should, and the stress transfers to the underlying bone. The bone cannot handle this stress and strain as well as muscles can, and eventually, a minute crack can form. This is a stress fracture.

Though small, this fracture can worsen without intervention from a foot doctor. Read on to discover symptoms, treatment options, and prevention tips regarding this injury that can affect the foot or ankle.

What Is a Stress Fracture

Do I Have a Stress Fracture?

The most recognizable symptom of a stress fracture in the ankle or foot is pain. This pain might feel tender to the touch, begin and worsen when you participate in physical activity or apply pressure to it, or not go away while at rest. You may also see swelling in the affected area.

The localized pain could develop for other reasons as well. So you will need an evaluation and diagnosis from a doctor to confirm the issue. A podiatrist might perform a physical exam and recommend imaging to determine if you have a stress fracture or not. Pain of any kind, especially when chronic, is abnormal and should warrant medical attention.

How Do I Treat a Stress Fracture?

The primary treatment in the event of a stress fracture is rest for the affected area. The damaged bone will need time to heal itself, which usually takes six to eight weeks. Do not engage in rigorous physical activity that would exert pressure on the affected foot or ankle.

To relieve lingering soreness, you might want to ice the area, compress it with wrapping, and take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Some injuries may require a cast to stabilize the bone as it heals. You may also benefit from wearing protective footwear like orthotics or a brace that can reduce stress on the foot or ankle.

How Can I Prevent Stress Fractures?

If you want to reduce your risk of developing a stress fracture in your ankle or foot, you should actively take preventative measures during physical activity. For instance, engage in warm-up and cool-down actions prior to exercise to prepare, stretch, and loosen the muscles. Wear recommended sporting gear to protect yourself from injuries during athletics and adhere to a healthy diet to keep your bones and muscles healthy.

If you do notice any pain, stop the activity right away. Continuing to exert pressure on stressed bones and muscles can cause or exacerbate an injury like a stress fracture. Do not hesitate to get treatment from your local podiatrist.