Stress fracture is another name for a hairline fracture, and this kind of injury commonly affects sports persons. This article covers the causes, symptoms and treatment of the commonly seen, ankle stress fracture.
In a severe bone fracture, the bone breaks, and there is a noticeable discontinuity in the bone structure. Stress fracture is less severe when compared to the normal fractures. It basically means there is some crack in the bones. Stress fractures commonly occur in the lower leg bones like the ankle bones (tibia and fibula) and other feet bones, that alone bear the weight of our body.
Athletes are more susceptible to ankle stress fractures, as their body is subjected to high level of physical activity, like running and other complex moves. But this does not mean that common people are not at the risk of these fractures. Subjecting the body to high level of physical stress is the main cause behind the occurrence of a stress fracture or hairline fracture. Let’s first understand in detail the signs, and then proceed to the causes and treatment.
Causes & Signs
As it was discussed in the first paragraph, subjecting the body to high level of physical activity, that involves extreme use of legs is the main cause of ankle stress fractures. An ankle bone fracture does not occur at a single go, repeated exposure of the feet and the ankle to high level of physical activity leads to a stress fracture.
Repeated use of feet in physical activities like running, jumping, hitting the ball, etc., weakens the muscles, and then they are not able to bear the shock or force which is generated while performing the physical activity. The bones are exposed to the force, and they are not able to bear. It is the function of muscles to absorb the shock. Thus weakening of muscles is one of the reasons for ankle stress fracture.
People who have bone disorders like osteoporosis are also susceptible to this fracture. This is because, the bones of these people are weak. People who have feet disorders like flat feet, and rigid arches can develop stress fracture in the ankle. Menstrual problems could be a remote cause in women.
The following are common signs of an ankle stress fracture.
- Unbearable and persistent pain is the foremost sign of stress fracture in the ankle.
- Swelling and tenderness of the ankle region is another common sign.
- Increased pain while doing moderate physical activity, and decrease in pain while taking rest, can be a probable sign of ankle stress fracture.
- If injury is the reason, bruised and swelled ankle is the sign.
How to Treat the Fracture
If the signs that we had discussed earlier do not go away with time, you need to consult the doctor. Stress fracture in the ankle is usually confirmed by doing some tests. MRI test, X-ray and bone scan are the commonly used tests to confirm an ankle stress fracture. If the presence of fracture is confirmed, the doctor determines the course of action to take. Again, the treatment depends on the severity of the fracture.
There might be a case that you have ignored the signs, and allowed the fracture to grow. If this is the case, the use of medications becomes imperative, and home remedies wouldn’t help. Certain therapies focus on reducing the weight on the affected bone. This is done by making the patient use crutches or walking boot. Surgery is the last option considered, if the medications and therapies don’t show any results.
Application of ice pack to the affected area is an effective home remedy to get rid of the pain due to stress fracture. Giving enough rest to the body, along with taking medications is also significant. Stop subjecting your body to unnecessary physical activity during the healing period. Resume the physical activity slowly after you are given a thumbs up by the doctor.