Stress fractures are tiny micro-cracks in the bone, and are usually due to overuse. Your muscles get tired from the continuous pounding and are no longer able to reduce the shock. Therefore, extra stress is put on your bones, and the result is cracks in the bone. The best way to tell if you have a stress fracture is if you feel pain when touching the areas closest to the fracture. In some cases, there could be swelling, as well.
How are Stress Fractures Diagnosed?
Stress fractures are difficult to diagnose using an X-ray machine. When most X-ray examinations detect a stress fracture, it's usually when it is already healing. Your podiatrist might suggest that you have an MRI, also known as magnetic resonance imaging. These scans can pick up the tiny cracks in your bones.
Treatment for Stress Fractures
- Rest - Podiatrists will tell you that the best treatment for stress fractures is rest. Stress fractures can take between one and a half to two months to fully heal. During that time, you will need to suspend most physical activity, such as sports that require you putting a lot of pressure on your foot.
- Ice - While you are resting, ice can help reduce swelling and stop a lot of the pain.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen will also reduce swelling and stop the pain from stress fractures.
- Crutches or Casts - Your podiatrist might also decide that you need to use crutches or a cast, depending on the extent of the stress fracture. This will prevent you putting weight on the affected area, and keep it from moving when you stand on it.
- Surgery - Internal fixation, or fastening the bone, is sometimes suggested by your podiatrist. Screws, plates and even pins are used to hold the bone in place until it heals. These are only in severe cases. Most of the time, your stress fracture will heal with rest.