Stress fractures are most common in the foot or ankle. Unlike normal bone fractures, stress fractures are still a break in the bone, but the bone doesn’t move or become displaced.
The most common bones of the ankle and foot that are affected by stress fractures are:
- The metatarsals which connect the toes to the foot
- The calcaneus or heel bone
- The navicular which is the bone on the top of the foot near the ankle
What causes a stress fracture?
The causes of stress fractures are related to both bone health and activity.
- Frequent repetitive motion places a high load on the foot and ankle, common among sports people who do regular, high impact activity such as running, hiking, ball sports, dance and gymnastics.
- A higher than normal level of activity can also lead to a stress fracture. For example, if someone has been running twice a week and then increases the frequency to running every day this can lead to a stress fracture.
- Shoes with poor support that are flimsy or ill-fitting such as high heels place large amount of pressure on the toes.
- People with low bone density (such as osteoporosis) can develop a stress fracture from low impact activities such as walking.
Symptoms of a stress fracture
Symptoms of stress fractures develop gradually, with pain increasing over time. The bones of the foot are small and intricate, and it can be difficult to diagnose a fracture. It is essential to stop any high impact activity at the first sign of a stress fracture so that it doesn’t develop into a full bone break.
If you’re experiencing forefoot pain or any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with one of our podiatrists to assess the condition of your foot and the source of pain. You may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Tenderness or sharp localised pain at the site of the fracture
- Pain that goes away after some rest
- Pain that intensifies during weight-bearing activities or normal daily activities
- Swelling on top of the foot or on the ankle
- Changes in gait to avoid putting pressure on the painful area
- Bruising around the fracture
Self-help at home – what you can do to relieve the pain of a stress fracture
To heal a stress fracture, you’ll need to stop the activity that causes the pain for as long as is necessary. For acute pain, the best approach is the R.I.C.E protocol.
- Rest – minimise any weight-bearing on the foot until it has healed. You can opt for lower impact activities such as swimming or cycling for fitness.
- Ice – apply ice packs to reduce swelling and decrease pain.
- Compression – decrease or stop swelling by wearing a compression bandage around the foot.
- Elevation – raise the foot above heart level when lying down to decrease swelling.
See a podiatrist at Sanders Podiatry Clinics
If you’re experiencing pain in your forefoot or anywhere else, please make an appointment with a podiatrist in one of our clinics at Linden Park, Stirling or Mount Barker. We will assess the pain and determine the cause and recommend further diagnosis or a treatment plan. We will also help you to prevent further stress fractures with exercises to strengthen the feet and make recommendations for proper footwear and general foot care.