Stress Fractures: Cracking Under Pressure

Stress fractures start small, but you should never take them for grantedCracks in a solid object are a sign of structural weakness. You wouldn’t be comfortable standing on a sheet of cracked ice, or trusting the weight of a roof to cracked support beams. The weight and pressure could be enough to cause them to break completely. Your feet suffer that same risk with stress fractures.

Cracking Bones Slowly

A stress fracture is a thin crack in hard bone tissue that develops as a result of overuse. Unlike full breaks, which happen suddenly and cut through a bone, this injury happens slowly, as stress on the bone increases until it cracks. Any time you start a new activity, increase the intensity, or lengthen the time you spend being active, the extra strain can affect your bones. That’s why athletes are particularly prone to this condition. If your lower limbs become overworked, the pressure and hard impacts are then absorbed by your bones. Eventually the stress can cause them to crack.

For some people, preexisting conditions make them more susceptible to the problem. Disorders like osteoporosis cause thinning in bone tissue. As you might expect, thin bones can’t handle as much strain as dense ones. These are far more likely to crack when you’re active.

How to Identify a Stress Fracture

Because this is an overuse injury, the pain will increase over time and may be similar to other problems in your lower limbs. The discomfort will be worst when you’re active and putting weight on the affected foot. Usually, resting alleviates some of the pain, particularly when the crack is still small. You may notice swelling in a particular area of your foot and find that area to be tender to the touch. Occasionally people develop bruising around the injury as well.

Since the problem can feel similar to other lower limb conditions, you’ll need to have your feet evaluated to accurately identify a stress fracture. Sanjay Gandhi, DPM and our experienced staff at A Step Up Podiatry, LLC, will examine your lower limbs and check your symptoms. We may request diagnostic images as well to check for cracks in your bone tissue. After the problem has been identified, we can help you treat it.

Helping Bones Heal

In the vast majority of cases, conservative care is all your foot needs to heal from stress fractures. Your bones will have to be kept still so the split in the hard tissue can heal. This will mean taking a break from all hard impact activities. Instead, stick to basic, low-impact options that won’t put pressure on your cracking bones. You’ll need to use protective footwear as well. This may simply mean a padded, stiff-soled shoe or a special walking boot. On rare occasions, for a high-risk or serious stress fracture, you may need a traditional cast. Once your bones have healed, you’ll start physical therapy to regain foot strength and ease back into your normal activities.

Stress fractures start small, but you should never take them for granted. They can easily become serious problems and cause enough pain to keep you from doing what you love. The sooner you take care of this condition, the better it is for your feet—and your body in general. Contact our team at A Step Up Podiatry, LLC in Manalapan, NJ, to take care of any cracks right away. Call (732) 446-7136 to reach us, or use our online request form.