Warning Signs That You Have a Stress Fracture

Warning Signs That You Have a Stress Fracture

When you think about breaking a bone, you probably imagine an impact, such as falling down, colliding with something, or being in a car accident. But bones can break in other ways, too. Stress fractures are small, hairline cracks in your bones that occur due to repeated stress on the same body part.

If you run track and field or perform manual labor with heavy loads, you’re at risk for stress fractures in your legs or feet. However, anybody can develop a stress fracture, and they’re more common as you grow older and your body’s natural ability to remodel bone tissue slows down.

Because you haven’t suffered a blow or fall, you might not even consider that a fracture could be at the root of your foot or ankle pain. That’s why our team of foot health experts here at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center want you to know the most common signs of stress fractures and what to do about them.

About bone health

Your bones are constantly regenerating themselves when you’re young. Old bone tissue is destroyed and new bone is built in a continual remodeling process. When you add stress and extra activity onto your bones gradually, your bones adjust to accommodate those stresses.

However, if you subject your bones to too much force too quickly — such as drastically increasing the amount or type of exercise or activities you do — they can’t properly cycle through the remodeling process. Eventually, tiny cracks called stress fractures begin to form. 

Warning signs of stress fractures

Do you have a stress fracture? Here are six signs that you might.

1. Deep, aching pain

The first indicator of a stress fracture is deep, aching pain that doesn’t seem to have a source. You don’t remember twisting your ankle or dropping anything on your foot. Nevertheless, your foot or ankle hurts chronically.

2. Swelling and tenderness  

When your body attempts to address the fracture, you may notice some swelling at the site of the fracture. That swelling may also cause the fracture site to be tender or warm when you touch it. 

3. Pain that worsens with activity

Stress fractures are born from stress and force. Therefore, you typically experience pain with even the most routine movements and activities. The pain from a stress fracture also tends to intensify at night and may disturb your sleep. 

4. Pain that resolves with with rest

A typical broken bone usually continues to ache even if you take pressure off of it and rest the injured area. However, stress fracture pain usually subsides when you rest it or when you reduce the amount of force on the affected area.

5. Pain that doesn’t improve

If you feel pain in a body part, you may have instituted the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — when symptoms set in. Normally, that’s the right approach to take. However, stress fractures don’t always improve even if you’re proactive with RICE. 

6. Inability to perform or function as normal  

When you have a stress fracture, you can’t perform your job or sport optimally. In fact, you may not be able to perform it at all.   

How to approach a stress fracture

With proper rest and rehabilitation, stress fractures usually heal without the need for repair. That’s why early detection is so important. Depending on your needs, we may recommend splinting or bracing a fracture to keep it stable in order for it to heal properly.

In addition to diagnosing and treating your stress fractures, our team educates you about some simple ways to avoid future stress fractures and preserve your bone health, including:

If you suspect that you have a stress fracture, please contact one of the Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center offices — in Wheat Ridge, South Granby, Arvada, Thornton, or Evergreen, Colorado — to set up an appointment today.

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