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What To Do When You Suffer a Stress Fracture

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Stress fractures – tiny cracks in the bone – are a common kind of running injury, though you don’t have to be a runner or a competitive athlete to experience one. These hairline cracks are typically caused by repetitive impact. Long-distance running, running sports (such as basketball and soccer), and repeated jumping are a few of the most common behaviors that lead to stress fractures.

Some people may experience a stress fracture if they start a new exercise routine or suddenly increase the intensity of a workout. Also, you may suffer a stress fracture without any obvious cause if you have osteoporosis.

How Do I Know If I’ve Had a Stress Fracture?

The only way to know for certain if your injury is a stress fracture is to see your orthopedic physician at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Your physician will perform a physical examination and (in some cases) may use imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis. Generally, the pain of a stress fracture gradually worsens throughout a weight-bearing activity, producing these symptoms:

  • Swelling on top of the foot or on the outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Pain that worsens, even in normal activities
  • Pain that lessens while you are at rest

What Can I Do for My Stress Fracture?

R.I.C.E. – commonly recommended for sprains and strains – can provide relief for stress fractures. You may also talk to your doctor about taking NSAIDs for stress fracture pain. The vast majority of stress fractures do not require surgical treatment. They mostly just take time. Your physician can aid your recovery by recommending different physical activities, recommending protective footwear, or – in some cases – providing a cast to keep bones from moving and to keep weight off the fracture.

How Long Does It Take for a Stress Fracture to Heal?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the healing process is different for each patient. However, there are generally three stages of healing. The first stage – the “rest stage” – may last about one week. During this time, you should totally avoid putting weight on the fracture. The second stage – the “non-impact stage” – may last two to four weeks. During this time, you may be able to exercise, but you still cannot put much weight on the fracture. Swimming is a great way to exercise during this time. During the third stage, which may last for several weeks, you can slowly get back into your regular exercise routine. If you’re a runner, start out with slow walks, gradually going faster and longer until you’re back to your regular routine. These are very general guidelines. You should always listen to your orthopedic physician’s specific guidelines regarding your scenario.

Schedule With an Orthopedic Physician In Houston

To schedule your appointment with a sports med doctor in Houston, call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online. If you think you may have experienced a stress fracture, stay off the foot (or leg) and contact your physician.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.