Stress Fracture Symptoms and Treatment Options

Not all bone fractures occur as an obvious or sudden injury. People who engage in activities like running, skiing, or many other sports may be prone to stress fracture symptoms. If you are experiencing pain in your feet, legs or ankles, it is important to consider the possibility of a stress fracture.

Ballet Dancer Dancing on her toe can lead to stress fracture symptomsWhat is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture, sometimes called a hairline fracture, is a thin fracture caused by recurrent force to an area.  A stress fracture can also occur if you have bones weakened by osteoporosis. This type of injury is most common in the lower extremities:

  • Tibia (larger inner leg bone)
  • Fibula (smaller outer leg bone)
  • Heel
  • Ankle
  • Metatarsals of the foot

Stress fractures are frequently found in runners, athletes, and dancers. If you have persistent pain after physical activity, you need to pay attention to the stress fracture symptoms.

Stress fracture symptoms

The pain of a stress fracture often develops gradually and increases with any weight-bearing activity. Some additional symptoms may include:

  • Diminished pain when resting
  • Intensified pain with normal daily activities
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Bruising

Some stress fractures can be diagnosed with a physical examination, but most will require an X-ray.

Stress fracture treatment

For a suspected stress fracture, start with First Aid and the RICE protocol:

  • Rest. Avoid weight-bearing activity as much as possible
  • Ice. To reduce swelling, apply ice right after the injury followed by cold packs several times per day for 20 minutes each time.
  • Compression. Use a soft bandage to lightly wrap the area.
  • Elevation. Rest with your foot higher than your heart as often as you can.

An anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen can also help with any pain you may be experiencing. If your stress fracture symptoms do not subside with home treatment, it is time to see a specialist.

Seeing a doctor for stress fracture symptoms

If you suspect a stress fracture, you should see a doctor before the injury gets any worse.  For stress fracture treatment, your doctor may have you wear a walking boot or use crutches while the injury is healing. This can take 6-8 weeks. If you are in persistent pain and are experiencing stress fracture symptoms, visit the Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group Express Care Clinic or schedule an appointment with one of our qualified specialists to have your injury evaluated.

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