Foot Stress Fractures: Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

Experiencing an ongoing pain in your foot? If so, then a stress fracture could be to blame. Stress fractures are quite common, but the good news is that they tend to heal up on their own over time. Still, it's important to seek diagnosis and treatment for a stress fracture of the foot--and having a better understanding of what causes stress fractures can help you avoid getting another one in the future.

Causes and Signs

Specifically, a stress fracture occurs when one of the many bones located inside your foot becomes damaged; the metatarsal (toe) bones are the most common victims of stress fracture due to their smaller and thinner size. Usually, stress fractures are caused by repeated force, such as that from running on a treadmill without proper arch support.

Diagnosing a Stress Fracture

A stress fracture will need to be diagnosed by an orthopedic specialist. Because stress fractures are so tiny, they can be difficult to detect without the proper experience and training. Typically, an orthopedic specialist will use a combination of a physical exam and X-rays to diagnose and pinpoint a stress fracture. 

Stress Fracture Treatment

If a stress fracture is found on your X-ray, your doctor will recommend treatment based on a few factors, including the location of the fracture and its severity. In minor cases, your doctor will likely prescribe a special boot for you to wear that will take the pressure off of the affected area of your foot. This boot may need to be worn for several weeks to encourage proper healing and should be worn at all times except for while resting or sleeping.

In more severe cases, your doctor may need to place a cast on your foot that will encourage faster healing. Even once X-rays show that your stress fracture has healed, your doctor will probably encourage you to avoid excessive exercise for a few additional weeks.

Preventing Stress Fractures

There are a few things you can do to avoid stress fractures of the foot in the future. Start by making sure you're wearing the proper shoes and have correct arch support; your doctor may be able to prescribe custom orthotic inserts that you can put in your shoes for this purpose. You should also try mixing up your exercise routines to avoid repetitive motions that can sometimes cause stress fractures.

Having a foot stress fracture can be a pain, but with a little time and caution, your foot can be healed up in no time.