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Here’s How to Diagnose and Treat a Stress Fracture

Here in Spring, TX, we’re a year-round running city—and that means we always worry about stress fractures.  Especially after extended shut downs, so many of us will be getting back to gyms, runs or even long walks. And, while that’s wonderful news for your overall health, it could also mean a rise in overuse injuries such as stress fractures. Luckily, our team of highly trained podiatrists has years of experience treating stress fractures. Just ask our patient Alexander V., who says that when he got “The boot I needed for my stress fracture, [it] was a pretty nice place. Everyone seemed very nice and my foot is already feeling a bit better after wearing the boot for a day.”

But rather than treating your stress fracture, we’d prefer to prevent your injury. So, for that reason, we’re talking all about overuse injuries today. That way, you can learn how to protect yourself from pain. And when it’s time to come in and see us for some extra help!

What is an overuse injury? what causes pain on top of my foot

An overuse injury occurs when you repeatedly put stress on your muscle, bone or joint . Over time, that stress leads to inflammation, pain and, in some cases, serious injuries such as stress fractures. Runners are often in our office dealing with overuse issues. And that’s because we often see this type of injury when you rapidly increase your athletic activity or training schedule. Or when you don’t rest enough between workouts, or keep playing your sport despite, even when you’re run down or hurting.

A stress fracture is one of the most common overuse injuries. And it’s very common for your foot to take the hit, since almost any activity you try puts added pressure on your feet. Where you happen to have 26 bones, many of which are small, delicate and vulnerable to injury.

When you put repetitive stress on those foot bones, they weaken. Eventually, they may even develop a small crack or break. And that’s when we’ll recommend using our in-office x-ray in Spring and Tomball, TX to see if you have a stress fracture.

Stress Fracture Symptoms

Unlike other bone injuries, stress fracture symptoms tend to develop slowly, over time. The most common symptom of this overuse injury is pain. Usually, the pain is localized, right at the spot where your bone has cracked or fractured. Sometimes, you may notice bruising or swelling with this injury.  So, if you notice any of these symptoms (especially if you’re an athlete or runner) come into the office right away.

Stress Reaction vs Stress Fracture

Why is it so important to come in as soon as you notice symptoms such as bruising or swelling? Here’s the deal. Many stress fractures begin as stress reactions. That means the bone is swollen and injured, but it hasn’t yet cracked. However, unless you intervene early enough in the injury process, the reaction will progress to a stress fracture, with a much longer recovery period.

Diagnosis and Treating a Stress Fracture

The only way to diagnose a fracture of any kind is with an x-ray. So, if we suspect you have an overuse injury, we’ll probably send you for imaging to rule out or spot a break. (In some cases, we may also recommend a CT scan or MRI.) Now, unlike with other foot fractures, a stress fracture won’t make your bone change positions. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to treat this as a serious injury.

If we diagnose this fracture, our first order will be to rest. Of course, that’s not so easy to do when you’ve broken a bone in your foot. For that reason, we’ll likely provide you with a walking boot. That way, you can go on with your regular routine, while taking pressure off your foot so you can heal.

Because stress fractures don’t displace, we hardly ever have to surgically repair this injury. Instead, you’ll spend between four to six weeks in your boot. And we’ll monitor you during your recovery, to make sure you heal properly and to clear you for a return to activity once we remove the boot.

Of course, we want to see you avoid stress fractures. So it’s best to take preventive measures when you exercise. First of all, think about your bones when you eat, by including lots of calcium and vitamin D in your diet.

You’ve also got to pay attention to your shoe choices. Forget those flimsy flip flops or cute-but-unsupportive Rothy’s flats. Instead, look for supportive sneakers, and sport-specific shoes such as basketball high tops or soccer cleats. In some cases, you may need custom orthotics in your shoes in order to prevent overuse injuries.

Remember, a stress fracture might not look or feel like a typical broken foot. So you could easily walk around with this injury. But doing so will only make your injury worse, and could lead to bigger problems or damage down the road.

Noticing pain or bruising in your feet? Don’t wait until it affects your mobility. Contact our office today for an immediate appointment. We’ll examine you for stress fractures right away. So you can start the clock on your recovery and safely return to athletic activity.