Stress Fractures of Foot

A stress fracture of the foot is a small crack or fracture in one of the bones of the foot that is caused by repeated stress or overuse. Unlike a typical fracture that is caused by a sudden injury or trauma, a stress fracture develops over time due to the repetitive application of force on a particular bone, usually from activities such as running, jumping, or dancing. Stress fractures are common in athletes and people who engage in high-impact activities, such as military personnel, dancers, and runners. The most commonly affected bones in the foot include the metatarsals (long bones in the foot), the calcaneus (heel bone), and the navicular bone (located in the arch of the foot).

Causes of Stress Fractures of Foot

Stress fractures of the foot are typically caused by repetitive stress and overuse of the bones in the foot. The repeated application of force on a bone can create tiny cracks that can gradually worsen over time. Some common causes of stress fractures in the foot include:

Overuse: Stress fractures often occur in athletes who engage in high-impact activities that require repetitive motions, such as running, jumping, or dancing.

Increased activity: An abrupt increase in the intensity, duration, or frequency of physical activity can also lead to stress fractures.

Poor footwear: Wearing shoes that lack support or cushioning can increase the pressure on the bones in the foot, leading to stress fractures.

Foot structure: Certain foot structures or conditions, such as flat feet or high arches, can increase the risk of stress fractures.

Nutritional deficiencies: A diet lacking in calcium and vitamin D can weaken bones and increase the risk of stress fractures.

Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as osteoporosis or hormonal imbalances, can weaken bones and increase the risk of stress fractures.

It is important to identify and address the underlying causes of stress fractures in order to prevent future injuries and promote healing. A healthcare professional can help diagnose and develop a treatment plan for stress fractures of the foot.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress Fractures of Foot

The signs and symptoms of stress fractures in the foot can vary depending on the severity of the injury. In the early stages, stress fractures may not cause significant pain, but the pain can worsen over time if the condition is left untreated. Common signs and symptoms of stress fractures in the foot include:

  • Pain: The most common symptom of a stress fracture is pain in the affected area of the foot. The pain may be dull or sharp and can worsen during weight-bearing activities.
  • Swelling: Swelling in the affected area of the foot is another common symptom of stress fractures.
  • Tenderness: The affected area of the foot may be tender to the touch.
  • Bruising: Some people with stress fractures may develop bruising around the affected area.
  • Stiffness: Stiffness in the affected area of the foot may be present, particularly after periods of rest.
  • Changes in gait: A person with a stress fracture may limp or favor the affected foot in order to reduce pain.

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these signs and symptoms. A healthcare professional can diagnose stress fractures with imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, and develop a treatment plan to help you heal and prevent future injuries.

Treatment for Stress Fractures of Foot

The goal of physiotherapy treatment for stress fractures of the foot is to promote healing, reduce pain, and prevent future injuries. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the injury, but some common approaches include:

Rest: Rest is essential for healing stress fractures, as it allows the affected bone to recover. The physiotherapist may advise the patient to avoid weight-bearing activities or to use crutches or a walking boot to take pressure off the affected foot.

Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce swelling and pain. The physiotherapist may recommend using ice packs or ice massages.

Compression: Using compression bandages or sleeves can help reduce swelling and provide support to the affected foot.

Elevation: Elevating the affected foot above the level of the heart can help reduce swelling and promote healing.

Exercise: Once the pain has subsided, the physiotherapist may recommend exercises to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected bone and improve flexibility.

Gait training: The physiotherapist may help the patient adjust their gait and walking pattern to reduce pressure on the affected foot.

Footwear modification: The physiotherapist may recommend using footwear with good shock absorption, arch support, and cushioning to reduce pressure on the foot.

It is important to follow the physiotherapist’s advice and gradually return to physical activity to avoid re-injury. In some cases, the physiotherapist may refer the patient to a podiatrist for custom orthotics or other specialized treatments.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about stress fractures of foot please call us at 03 9836 1126.

 

Reference:

Hong Y, Li JX, Fong DT, Chan KM. Physiological and biomechanical mechanisms of foot muscle fatigue and plantar fascia strain in Chinese female runners. Gait Posture.

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