A metatarsal stress fracture is a common occurrence amongst adults, and is the formation of small fractures in the long bones of the foot, something which they are prone to due to their weight bearing role. Metatarsal stress fracture symptoms are not exclusive to the hairline fractures in the bones of the feet, and can be indicative of a number of different conditions, making a home diagnosis difficult.
The best way to determine if a metatarsal stress fracture is the cause of top of foot pain is to visit to a doctor for a thorough diagnosis. However, even doctors may have trouble identifying the condition, as the factures are often so small that they do not show up on an X-Ray, certainly until the bones have started to heal, which can take up to 2 weeks after the injury has been sustained. In this case, a case history and an examination of the foot will help to determine if a stress fracture is likely.
Metatarsal stress fractures can be painful, but in the beginning the pain is not generally present all the time. But when pain is felt, it can be intense. As time goes on, the longer you do not deal with the problem, the more frequent, intense, and enduring the pain is likely to become. If you leave the problem untreated for long enough, it could eventually lead of a full break of the bone.
Stress fractures often include swelling and redness around the site of the fracture, which can sometimes be noticed when you actually look at the foot. Stress fractures can form in any bone, although in the feet it is usually the heel bone, or the second, third and fourth metatarsal bones which are most prone to develop these hairline cracks. Pain tends to occur during weight bearing activity, and can continue for some time afterwards, even hen the foot is rested.
In addition to pain, shoes may seem to fit tighter due to localised swelling. If you are suffering from swelling or redness around the site of the pain in the top of the foot, there is a good chance you are dealing with a stress fracture.
Bruising is often a symptom that is noticed when the stress fracture has gone untreated for awhile. Bruising will appear on the foot near the site of the pain, with some inflammation and swelling. This is a pretty good tell-tale sign that you are dealing with a stress fracture of the foot, rather than metatarsal stress syndrome. Also, metatarsal stress fractures tend to cause top of foot pain, rather than ball of foot pain.
These hairline fractures are quite common with teenage girls who participate in sports, due to poor nutrition and calcium of vitamin D deficiency. Since teenage athletes often train hard, and restrict high calorie food intake, they may also be unwittingly avoid calcium rich foods. Cheese, milk, and yoghurt are the primary sources of calcium, and are often shunned by those looking to keep off the pounds.
Treatment is usually simple, and involves time off the feet and rest. The fractures should heal naturally after about 6 weeks, as long as the factors which led to their formation are properly addressed. This can be as simple as replacing old running shoes, not training quite so hard, or wearing arch supports or orthotic insoles to help correct foot function.
In some cases, where multiple stress fractures are present, more involved treatment may be required, although surgery is rarely required. A foot brace or support device may be required to prevent further injury and ensure the foot is kept in the proper position to promote healing.