Bone injuries are very common and tremendously inconvenient (not to mention painful). Most people will experience a broken bone or two. Stress fractures in particular can sneak up on you slowly. Read on to learn what they are and how to treat them.
Description of a Stress Fracture
A stress fracture is a tiny crack in your bone. The integrity of the bone remains intact. Stress fractures differ in a number of ways from compound and simple fractures.
Stress fractures do not usually result from acute trauma. Instead, they occur over a long period of time from repetitive force to the same area. They’re typically found in dancers and athletes such as distance runners, basketball players and gymnasts, who move and jump on hard surfaces.
They can also afflict people with high arches or flat feet. Stress fractures are therefore seen primarily in the feet and shin bones. These bones absorb the primary impact from physical activity, and support most of your body’s weight.
Symptoms of a Stress Fracture
The invisible stress fracture offers a major clue to its existence: pain. Take note of foot or leg pain that increases when you’re active and lessens when you rest. Recurring pain may become noticeable sooner in your workout. You may feel tenderness or soreness in one or more locations. There may also be swelling around the injured area. If foot or leg pain continues after a substantial rest from activity, it may be time to consult a doctor.
Diagnosis: MRI vs. X-ray
Although X-rays can be used to look for a stress fracture, they may fail to detect the fracture for several weeks after you begin to feel pain. As a result, your doctor may use a magnetic resonance imaging study (MRI). A bone scan may also be effective. For this procedure, a tracer material is injected into the bone and then tracked using the scanner.
Treatment of a Bone Injury
The primary focus of treatment is to eliminate or reduce weight and pressure from the injured bone. Rest is the best medicine, so don’t cut it short (it may be one to three months or longer). Your doctor may also apply a brace or cast, or instruct you to use crutches.
Healing from a Fracture
During rest, you can ice the area to reduce swelling and pain, and aid the healing process. Your doctor may prescribe three or four 10-minute icing sessions per day. After you’ve received the OK to begin activity, start slowly and progress gradually.
You might begin with a low or non-impact activity, such as swimming, to rebuild strength. Be sure your diet is sufficient, too. Eating foods rich in nutrients, especially calcium, will help heal your current injury and strengthen your bones to prevent future injuries.
Stress fractures may be less dramatic than compound and simple fractures, but they’re no less debilitating. If you engage in any sort of activity that results in repetitive force on the floor or other hard surface, be wise and stay alert for symptoms. With proper care and attention, you’ll minimize injuries and ensure a lifetime of happy feet.