Stress Fractures: Cracking Your Feet

Stress fracture in a castWould you trust cracked ice on a pond to hold your weight? Would you be okay with crossing a bridge that has split support beams or riding in a car with fractured struts? People are wary of trusting objects that appear to be cracking or breaking down. The concern is that too much pressure will cause that small break to give out entirely. That is why stress fractures in your feet or ankles are more than just painful—they risk significant damage.

A Split in Solid Structures

Stress fractures are thin cracks in solid bone tissue. They don’t completely break the bone so that it is in two or more separate pieces, but they do compromise its integrity. The split creates a weak point. Too much pressure or strain on an already damaged bone could cause it to snap.

The splits are caused by repetitive pounding. Athletes are particularly susceptible to them in their feet and shins, since running and other sports involve frequent hard impacts from striking the ground. The crack develops over time when the lower limb is fatigued and not absorbing shock properly. The stress damages the bones instead, leading to small breaks in the hard tissue.

The Effect on Your Feet

This causes a slowly increasing pain in a specific area of your foot. Your foot will feel worse when you’re putting pressure on it and improve somewhat when you rest. Often the foot is tender around the crack and may present some slight swelling. Occasionally there is bruising as well. As the condition progresses without treatment, it can grow to be uncomfortable even when you’re going about your regular, daily activities. Since it has such a high risk for turning into a full fracture, it’s especially important to have it diagnosed and treated before it reaches that point.

Time for Healing

Dr. Robert Parker and our team at Parker Foot & Ankle Clinic will have to carefully examine your lower limbs to accurately diagnose stress fractures. Thin cracks are hard to see on X-rays, so our team may need multiple tests or images to identify the problem. Then we can help you manage and eliminate the splits.

The good news is that conservative therapies work well for stress fractures. First and foremost, your foot will need time and rest to recover. You’ll need to cut back your activities and avoid all hard-impacts for a time. This provides your bones with a chance to heal without aggravating the fractures further. You’ll need to wear supportive shoes with cushioned soles to help reduce the pressure on your feet, too. Occasionally a cast or special walking boot will be more helpful—it can keep your lower limb immobilized while you heal. Ice the painful area and keep your foot elevated to minimize swelling and inflammation. Once the foot has sufficiently recovered, you’ll be able to slowly return to your activities. You may need physical therapy to help you rebuild strength and prevent future issues.

Don’t take stress fractures for granted. Cracks that start small only get bigger under pressure. Take care of your foot before the injury becomes much worse. Let Parker Foot & Ankle help you eliminate your foot pain and keep your bones healthy. Call our Houston, TX, office at (281) 497-2850 for an appointment, or use our web request form.