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Foot/Ankle Stress Fracture

Definition:

Stress fractures are tiny breaks in the bone, usually caused by repetitive stress from activities like running. Although they can be quite painful, they usually resolve with a few months rest.

Causes:

Activities that require running and jumping may cause fractures in the legs or feet. Stress fractures are much more likely to develop in people who have just started a new sport or have suddenly increased workout intensity. When muscles aren’t well-conditioned, they tire easily and can’t support and cushion the bones as well. Increased pressure is exerted directly on the bones, which can lead to a fracture.

Symptoms:

Pain is the most common complaint, although often not in the exact area of the fracture.

Gradual swelling and brusing can occur around the ankle. Bruising can track down toward the sole of the foot or toward the toes.

Treatment:

The initial treatment for a stress fracture is to:

  • Rest, ice and elevate the extremity
  • Reduce activity
  • Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for pain

Depending on which bone is involved, your doctor may recommend a splint or cast to immobilize the affected area. In some cases, crutches or cane are necessary to decrease weight bearing. Severe stress fractures that won’t heal on their own sometimes require surgery.

Learn about common causes of foot and ankle pain and how physical therapy treatment can help.
South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy Pain Guide