Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

A stress fracture in the foot or ankle is a small crack or severe bruising on a bone. It is commonly seen in athletes who participate in running sports, such as soccer or basketball. Most stress fractures are caused by overuse and repetitive activity. It can also occur when athletes change their workout routine, such as trying a new exercise, increasing the intensity of their workouts, or changing the terrain on which they are exercising.

The weight-bearing bones in the foot and ankle are extremely vulnerable to stress fractures because of the repetitive forces they absorb during walking, running, and jumping. Stress fractures happen most frequently in the second and third metatarsals in the foot, as they absorb the greatest impact as you walk or run.

Common Causes of Stress Fractures

While the most common cause of stress fractures is an increase in physical activity, there are other factors that can increase your risk for a stress fracture. Some of the most common ones are listed below.

  • Bone Insufficiency
    There are many different factors that make you more susceptible to stress fractures. These factors can be as complex as medical conditions that decrease bone strength and density, like osteoporosis, to being as simple as not having enough vitamin D in your body. In addition, studies show that female athletes are more prone to stress fractures compared to their male counterparts.
  • Poor Conditioning
    When athletes push themselves too hard too quickly, a stress fracture is likely to occur. When your body does not have adequate time to rest, there is a higher chance of you cracking or bruising a bone in your foot or ankle.
  • Improper Technique and Equipment
    Anything that changes the way your foot absorbs the impact of hitting the ground (i.e. old sneakers with worn soles) can increase your chances of a stress fracture. That is why it is crucial to ensure that you have received the proper training, and are using the right equipment while you partake in physical activity.

Symptoms of Stress Fractures

Some common indicators of stress fractures include:

  • Pain that occurs during normal, daily activities
  • Swelling on the foot or ankle
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Bruising

Treatment Options for Stress Fractures

Depending on the severity of the fracture, there are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Some of the common treatment options are highlighted below.

  • Rest
    Typically, it takes about six to eight weeks for a fracture to heal. During this time, it is crucial that you change your daily routine so that there is less stress on your foot and ankle. With your physical therapist’s approval, it is okay to engage in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling.
  • Casting
    Applying a cast or wearing protective footwear can help keep your bones in a fixed position. Casting your foot also removes any stress on your leg, allowing you to heal more quickly.
  • Internal Fixation
    This surgical method is used for more severe stress fractures. During this procedure, pins, screws, and/or plates are used to hold the bones in your foot together.
  • Physical Therapy
    The best option to recover from a stress fracture as quickly and safely as possible is to see a physical therapist. He or she will be able to assess the severity of your fracture and come up with an individualized treatment plan to provide you relief from your pain.

Schedule a Consultation with a Physical Therapist

If you think you may be suffering from a stress fracture in your foot or ankle, contact JAG Physical Therapy today. Let us help you get back the life you love!

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