A common site of a stress fracture is along the long bones of the foot, the metatarsals
What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture can occur in any bone. Within the foot, the most common stress fractures occur within the metatarsal bones as shown on the image, and the navicular bone.
What do stress fractures feel like?
Can you see the stress fracture in this image? Hint: look at the 5th metatarsal the long bone in line with the pinky toe
What causes a stress fracture?
Often people who have a stress fracture cannot remember any particular injury or event which caused their foot pain. This is because it is due to prolonged load over a period of time.
Some factors that can contribute to the development of a stress fracture include:
- Anything that places excessive or abnormal stress on the metatarsal bones. This may be due to underlying foot deformities (eg, bunions), poor foot biomechanics (eg, flat feet) or obesity.
- An increase in activity levels, particularly if this occurs suddenly or without proper conditioning.
- Running on hard or uneven terrain, especially if running long distances.
- Unstable or poorly cushioned shoes.
- Conditions that cause decreased bone density (eg, osteoporosis, hormonal changes) can make bones more susceptible to stress fractures.
How is a stress fracture treated?
Stress fractures are diagnosed by x-ray, however not all stress fractures will be visible on x-ray at the start. If a stress fracture is suspected following examination by a podiatrist, treatment will usually involve immobilising the foot to allow the bone fracture to heal with an x-ray in the upcoming weeks.
A moon boot may be recommended to allow your foot to rest while still enabling you to weight bear on the foot. Treatment will also include advice on gentle exercises to avoid developing stiffness in your joints after your foot has been immobilised. Depending on your situation, orthotics may be recommended to improve biomechanics of the foot and reduce pressure on the injured bone. Advice on appropriate footwear is critical for the prevention of stress fractures. At times, crutches will be recommended to take weight off the foot.
If a stress fracture does not respond well to conservative management then surgical intervention may be sought. Your Podiatrist will refer you to an Orthopaedic Specialist for further management.
It is important to take steps to prevent a future recurrence . Activity modification and load management are crucial for recovery and long term prevention of further stress injuries.
Two Adelaide Clinics!
Fixing sore feet & legs without surgery, cortisones or prolonged rest!