We all know what fractures are. Many of you have probably fractured a bone or two in your lives. You jump off a high structure or you get in wrestling match with your brother and next thing you know, you have to go to the hospital because you broke a bone. The use of the term “stress” when pertaining to a fracture may be puzzling for some. The common statement heard by podiatrists is: “I do not recall any serious pain to my foot”. While they may not recall any specific traumatic event causing the fracture , the patient indeed suffered trauma significant enough to cause a fracture , it just wasn’t the type of “trauma” everyone thinks of when discussing fractures .
A stress fracture is a very small fracture in a bone, and is sometimes referred to as a “hairline fracture “. With over two-hundred bones in your body, a fracture can occur nearly anywhere but stress fractures are most prevalent in the foot. This is because the feet bear the weight of the entire body. Often times, stress fractures are related to “overuse”, usually resulting from sports, overtraining, or sudden increases in activity without proper conditioning. Athletes playing football, soccer, baseball or any intense sport can develop a stress fracture . The principle of repeatedly hitting or stomping your foot on the same general spot will increase your chances of developing a stress fracture .
A typical activity is working out on the treadmill (a.k.a. the dreadmill). As you are doing your workout on the treadmill, you’re constantly hard stepping your feet again and again–which is more intense when there is an incline and you go for a long duration. You can easily get a foot stress fracture this way. A way to reduce the chances of a stress fracture is to simulate running outside by trying the incline and the speed of the treadmill. This way you’ll constantly be adjusting how your foot strikes the ground, which dampens the stress placed on any one spot in the foot.
Due to osteoporosis, women are more prone to stress fractures than men. This is compounded by two other common conditions in women: eating disorders and irregular menstrual cycles. The two symptoms can add to the building up of osteoporosis, which is not only a condition for elderly women but can occur in early on. Now, this is not to say men aren’t also susceptible to stress fractures , because they can get them, it’s just important for women to be aware of the increased risk of stress fractures .
The long bones in the foot that go from the middle of the foot to the toes (a.k.a. the metatarsals) is the most frequent spot for a stress fracture in the foot. The heel or the location known as the navicular (which is on top of the midfoot) can also experience a stress fracture . Due to an insufficient amount of blood flow, the fractures in this bone are not easy or fast to cure.
Some common symptoms you may experience should you suffer a stress fracture are pain that starts gradually, gets worse with weight-bearing activities and slowly gets better with rest, possible swelling, tenderness to touch and possible bruising.