A stress fracture generally occurs when a repetitive low-intensity force acts on a bone creating a tiny crack. If left untreated, the crack will worsen until a relatively minor injury such as a misplaced step may cause a full-fledge break in the bone, just like the proverbial final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
More than 50% of the stress fractures occur in the lower leg (the shin and the bones of the foot). Women have a higher risk of developing stress fractures, which could be because they tend to lose bone mass more rapidly with age than men. Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods) and eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia can also contribute to this problem.
Pain with activity in the area of the weakened bone is a common symptom. X-rays may be used to diagnose stress fractures; however, sometimes the condition will only show up on X-ray images 2 weeks after the pain has started and advanced studies (CT or MRI) may be required to quickly diagnose a stress fracture.
Rest is a very important part of treatment of stress fractures. This is because bone is a living tissue that is constantly remodeling itself depending on the forces acting on it. With enough rest (about 6-8 weeks) and eating a bone-healthy diet with plenty of vitamin D and calcium-rich foods, the cracks in the bone may heal adequately to allow return to sport or other physical activities. But, remember not to increase the intensity and duration of your physical activity too rapidly.
Any kind of activity, whether it’s weightbearing exercise or high-impact sports, causes breakdown of bone or muscle tissue, but can also stimulate growth if you give your body sufficient time to heal itself. Too much of activity and not enough of rest will be detrimental to your bones and overall health. When it comes to stress fractures, the sooner you recognize symptoms and take corrective action, the faster you will be able to get back to your active lifestyle.
If your bone pain does not seem to be getting better despite rest and avoiding pain-exacerbating activities, you should consult your doctor or an orthopedic specialist.
The physicians of The Carrell Clinic™ are committed to providing the highest level of orthopedic care in Frisco & Dallas, Texas. Book an appointment with us today.