You’ve all heard the term “cracking under pressure.” It often refers to a mental condition where stress causes us to lose focus and underperform, but it also describes what happens in your feet when the bones are stressed through overuse. A stress fracture is not the same as one in which the bone breaks into two, but it can be just as critical to your ability to perform daily movements.
The Stresses on Your Feet
Overuse can mean doing the same motion over and over, such as running or jumping in sports. It can also refer to doing something new that your feet are not used to. That could be anything from taking long hikes on a camping weekend to starting a new job that requires a lot of standing or walking. Wearing new shoes that don’t fit well can put pressure on your bones, too. Having bones weakened by osteoporosis is another risk.
Stress Fracture Symptoms
Pain with weight-bearing is your first indicator. It may feel like a sprained foot or ankle, but often it is located in a specific spot. It will be worse while you are active and may go away with rest. The area may be swollen and tender when pressed. There is usually no bruising with this type of fracture.
If this describes what you are feeling, come in and let us evaluate your feet. You need to know what you are dealing with to know how best to treat it. We can order imaging tests to see if there is indeed a fracture, or if other tissues are damaged.
We will guide you through four steps you can take to help your stress fracture heal properly.
Rest Your Leg
The bone will heal best if it is not stressed further, so we may immobilize it with a boot or brace. We may also have you use crutches to keep weight completely off your leg if needed. It is important to follow our instructions to a “T,” so the surface cracks will not weaken the bone and make it more prone to breaking completely.
Certain activities like running or sports will have to be discontinued, but there are other ways to stay active without causing trauma to your feet. Swimming, bicycling or using an elliptical machine may work. We will give you some options for exercising that won’t harm you further.
Icing for Swelling and Pain
While the break is healing, you can apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the swollen area to reduce swelling and numb the pain. This can be done for 20 minutes at a time once an hour at first, and then decreased frequency as the symptoms improve. It would also help to elevate your limb slightly above heart level while doing this.
Footwear to Protect Your Bones
Certain mild cases may only need a stiff soled shoe or one with a rocker bottom while the stress fracture is healing. This would allow you to still walk without causing trauma to the bones. Your foot would not bend as much when you walk, keeping the bones from moving about too much. Once the pain and swelling have gone down, you may still need a solid shoe with good arch support to allow further healing to take place. We would suggest no heels or pointed shoes for several weeks until the foot is completely better.
Nutrition and Medications
We will help you analyze your diet to see if you lack nutrients necessary for strong bones. Calcium and vitamin D are needed, and can be gotten from certain foods. These include fortified dairy products, oranges, canned salmon, almonds, some soy products, and leafy greens such as collards and kale. We may also prescribe calcium supplements with vitamin D. Treatment for thin bones (osteoporosis) may require other medications.
If you have symptoms of a stress fracture, call Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona and set up an appointment. You can reach us in Chandler at (480) 963-9000 or Fax (480) 963-0375, and in Gilbert at (480) 981-1800 or Fax (480) 981-0229.
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