Stress fractures are minute cracks in your bones often developed owing to repetitive force (stress) such as constant running or jumping. Stress fractures can be caused by repetitive force, often from overuse — like running long distances or repeatedly jumping up and down. They can also develop from normal use of a bone that is weakened by a condition called osteoporosis (weak or porous bone).
Stress fractures are very common in your weight-bearing bones of the lower leg as well as the foot. Military recruits, track and field athletes who carry heavy loads over long distances are at a greater risk. However, any individual can sustain a stress fracture. If you begin a new exercise program, for instance, you may develop stress fractures if you workout too much, too soon.
Overview of Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are more common in athletes and people in the army, as they train over long distances every day. People with medical conditions like osteoporosis are also at higher risk of having the problem. That being said, anyone can get a stress fracture.
They most often develop in pressure-bearing bones such as those of the foot. Stress fractures are not a significant health problem, and your doctor can treat them efficiently.
What are the Symptoms of Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures don’t show any major signs. The most common symptoms include:
- Pain in body parts surrounding the affected bone
- Swelling around the fracture site
- Tenderness at the fracture site
- Pain that diminishes or stays after rest
When to See a Doctor for Stress Fractures?
Stress fractures often do not lead to any significant complications. However, the pain can worsen with each passing day. Hence, it is vital to treat them before you start experiencing pain even while resting. If you have any of the above symptoms, it is best to pay a visit to your doctor. You can book an appointment with the nearest branch of Apollo Hospitals.
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What Are The Causes of Stress Fractures?
There are two major causes of stress fractures: constant pressure on bones or a quick increase in an activity’s intensity. Bone adapts slowly to increased loads through remodeling, a normal procedure that speeds up when the load on your bone increases. During remodeling, the bone tissue is destroyed (resorption), and is then rebuilt. Bones subjected to unusual force without giving enough time for recovery, resorb cells faster than the body can replace them. This can make you more susceptible to stress fractures.
Suppose you have started an exercise program and are putting too much pressure on your bones from the start; this will cause stress fractures. Instead, if you gradually increase the intensity, your bones will eventually get used to the pressure and handle it more efficiently.
What Are The Risk Factors of Stress Fractures?
Everyone is vulnerable to stress fractures; however, some people are more susceptible to the condition than others. Below are some risk factors that may make you more prone to developing a stress fracture.
- Sports. Sports are essential for your physical health, but too much activity with high-impact sports can cause trouble. If you are an athlete participating in high-impact sports such as basketball, track and field events, and gymnastics, among others, you are more prone to fractures.
- Sudden increase in high-impact activities. Your body cannot sustain very rapid changes to your daily lifestyle. If you move too quickly from average to high-intensity daily activities, you can end up getting stress fractures.
- Sex. Women are more susceptible to these small fractures, especially those who have absent menstrual cycles.
- Foot issues. Having foot problems such as flat feet or incorrect foot arches is a high-risk factor for having minute fractures in the foot and lower leg. Worn out footwear can also aggravate this
- Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones. Weakened bones mean less strength and capability to handle stress.
- Lack of nutrition. Several conditions, such as an unhealthy diet or eating disorders can prevent your body from absorbing nutrients, and can also result in a lack of vitamin D and calcium. This lack of nutrition leads to weakened bones and increases the chances of stress fractures.
How Are Stress Fractures Diagnosed?
If you have a history of stress fractures, your doctor may quickly diagnose them with straightforward physical examinations . However, in most cases, standard imaging tests are necessary to identify the issue. Some of the imaging tests used to diagnose stress fractures are:
- Bone scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
How to Treat Stress Fractures?
Depending on the severity of your stress fracture, your doctor may prescribe surgical or non-surgical treatments. To decrease the weight-bearing load on the bone until it heals, you may have to wear a brace or walking boot or use crutches.
Though unusual, sometimes surgery becomes necessary for complete healing of few types of stress fractures, particularly those that happen in areas with a poor blood supply. Surgery may also be an option to help healing in laborers whose work involves the stress fracture site or elite athletes who like to return to their sport more quickly.
There are multiple ways to treat stress fractures non-surgically. Here are some of them:
Footwear changes. Your doctor may ask you to wear protective footwear. This can include stiff or wooden-soled footwear.
Switching to less-intense activities. Until you recover and the symptoms fade away, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as switching to less-intense activities. This will reduce the stress on your bones and help them heal gradually.
Using supporting equipment. Your doctor will prescribe the use of some equipment that can help hold your bones together. For instance, if you have a stress fracture in your leg, your doctor may recommend using crutches. Another example is the use of crepe bandages. All such equipment will aid your bones to heal quickly.
What Are the Complications Associated with Stress Fractures?
When left untreated, stress fractures can lead to numerous bone-related complications. While most of the complications are minor, some of them can be complicated. For instance, a stress fracture in the hip can lead to complications that may require a hip replacement. Some of the common complications include:
Recurring fractures. Some of the underlying causes, such as osteoporosis, can result in fractures in the same or different locations.
Nonunion. A condition in which the bone with the stress fracture stops healing.
Malunion. A condition where the bone involved in the stress fracture does heal but inappropriately.
How to Prevent Stress Fractures?
Although everyone is susceptible to stress fractures, you can take some precautionary measures to stay on the safe side. Some of the standard precautionary measures are:
- Gradually increase the intensity of any physical activity
- Wear proper footwear
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid stressing a particular bone
Summing it up
Stress fractures are not very difficult to deal with, and you can take most of the non-surgical treatment options at home; however, it is best to visit a doctor if the pain worsens. Treating small fractures that can potentially lead to complications is essential. You can walk into or book an online appointment at the nearest Apollo Hospitals to get the best medical advice and treatment for stress fractures.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- When can I restart activities after recovering from a stress fracture?
After recovery and taking rest for a couple of days, you can resume your daily activities. But, avoid any activity that caused the stress fracture for at least a couple of weeks. Ensure that your progress of activities is slow and gradual, beginning with low-intensity activities. It is also important to immediately visit your doctor if the pain recurs after adapting to your natural schedule.
- What lifestyle changes can help to heal from stress fractures?
Some common lifestyle changes, such as taking frequent rest and using ice on swollen areas, can help ease pain and help you heal quickly.
3.Can stress fractures heal on their own?
Usually, stress fractures can heal independently over 8 to 12 weeks without any medical help. However, if the pain worsens, it is best to see a doctor and not wait for the symptoms to resolve.
Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment