A stress fracture is a partial or complete hairline break in a bone due to repeated microtrauma to the area and is therefore an overuse injury. These stress fractures occur most frequently in the 2nd – 4th metatarsal bones (the bones of the foot just before the toes).
Stress fractures are normally caused by overuse and repetitive microtrauma to the area; however there are a number of other factors which may contribute to this issue. These include:
- Deformity Of The Foot – Causes Weight Shifting And In Turn Can Place Undue Stress On An Particular Bone
- Biomechanical Insufficiency
- Osteoarthritis – Predisposes Bone To Fractures Or Breaks
Localised pain, swelling, warmth and redness are symptoms of a stress fracture. Patients usually explain that they didn’t notice any trauma. Pain commences with activities such as running or other high impact sports involving jumping and is found to decrease with rest. Bones heal while we sleep, so night pain may be a complaint of a patient with a break or stress fracture.
It is important to recognise that rest from impact can play a significant role in recovery from a stress fracture. Crutches may be recommended to decrease stress to the bone for a number of weeks or until walking produces no symptoms. It may also be beneficial if soft, flexible shoes are avoided.
An x-ray may be able to confirm the diagnosis if taken 14 days after the onset of signs and symptoms.