A stress fracture in the feet can be described as a condition where small cracks develop on the foot bones. It is also known as a hairline fracture. This kind of bone fracture occurs particularly in feet because the foot bones have to bear the entire body's weight. The long metatarsal bones of the foot that runs up to the toes are more susceptible to stress fractures. It is a common sports injury.
If you are involved with rigorous physical training for sports activity or heavy exercising, then you are at a greater risk of getting this injury. Stress fracture in the foot is more common in female athletes that in men simply because they have a comparatively lower bone density. You can identify it with symptoms like localized pain, tenderness and swelling. These symptoms tend to get aggravated with activities and subside with rest. However, if the bone is in a badly damaged condition, then the symptoms will persist even at rest.
Athletes who are involved with high impact sports like long distance running or gymnastics or volleyball where a person has to jump on a hard surface repeatedly tends to get a stress fracture. This is because during such activities the foot is hit against the hard ground surface and the thrust injures the bone. The body can repair this kind of damage of bone cells on its own only if the foot is rested properly. However, if the bone cells do not get the scope to replace the damaged cells with new ones then cracks start developing on them due to continuous pressure.
Sometimes, fatigued foot muscles cannot absorb the shock of the high impact activities anymore and the resultant stress is passed on to the bones and they suffer a fracture. Prolonged training sessions, use of wrong footwear and improper conditioning of the foot muscles often make the muscles fatigue more easily. Those who have osteoporosis can get a stress fracture in the foot. In this condition, the bone density decreases and it becomes brittle and breaks.
The symptoms of stress fracture do not show up all of a sudden. Rather, they develop over a period of time. Initially, you may just experience a mild pain which will go on to intensify with passage of time. If you have pain in the foot that lasts for more than a week, then you must go to the doctor for its treatment. It is diagnosed with the help of x-rays and if required a bone scan is conducted. The first thing that your doctor will advise you is to suspend all physical activities and provide sufficient rest to the injured foot.
The painful symptoms are controlled with the help of pain relieving medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Ice application three to four times a day for 10-15 minutes is of great help for reducing both pain and swelling. Even if you stand up, it will put a lot of pressure on the feet. Therefore, efforts are made to ease off the pressure from the feet.
For this, doctors recommend use of walking boots, brace or crutches. In case it is a serious injury the feet requires complete immobilization. A splint or cast is used for this purpose. It is only in some rare cases that surgery is needed for repairing fractured bones. During the course of treatment, you must include plenty of calcium rich foods in your daily diet to improve bone health.
Stress fracture of the foot recovery time can vary from 6-8 weeks to several months. It depends on the severity of the injury. Therefore, stay away from high impact activities as long as your doctor advises you to do so. Increase the intensity and time of activities gradually to prevent another injury. Use the right kind of shoes to protect the feet. Replace the shoes as soon as you find that they are worn out.