The Early Signs of a Stress Fracture

Stress fractures often develop in the legs or feet of athletes — especially runners — who exert repetitive force on their lower limbs. Unlike acute bone fractures that occur as the result of an accident (and almost always cause immediate pain), a stress fracture begins as a small hairline fracture. Such a thin crack may start as a tenderness that worsens gradually rather than suddenly. 

Left untreated, a stress fracture can quickly impact your athletic performance. As a member of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, Dr. Mark Forman and our knowledgeable team at Put Your Feet First can treat your stress fracture and help you prevent future ones from developing.

Stress fracture signs to watch for

Because stress fractures worsen slowly over time, you might not realize you have a stress fracture at first. But if you do suspect you’ve developed a stress fracture, swift treatment can help you get relief before your pain worsens.

The early signs of stress fractures include:

  • Tenderness or dull achiness in your leg or foot
  • Pain that occurs with activity but disappears when you’re at rest
  • Pain that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Pain that doesn’t respond to the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • Weakness in your affected leg or foot
  • Pain that is worse at night

You might also start to see these symptoms shortly after starting a new (and intense) workout regimen. This includes runners who add too many miles too quickly to their weekly running log.

So to summarize, if you notice a dull pain that increases over time, doesn’t respond to rest or RICE, and is worse with activity, you may be dealing with a stress fracture. 

What to do if you see these signs

Stress fractures develop when repetitive forces on your foot cause thin cracks in your bone. Without rest, the force will continue to apply pressure, which causes more and more discomfort. That’s why rest is integral to the treatment process. In addition to rest, you may benefit from bracing and physical therapy.

Resting for 6-8 weeks can seem like an eternity for athletes who run or play daily. However, sticking with the treatment protocol — and resting for the appropriate length of time — can help you score a full recovery. 

Dr. Forman also recommends steps you can take to prevent future stress fractures from developing. 

He may:

  • Ask you to try alternative exercises that put less stress on your legs or feet
  • Evaluate your running technique and suggest any necessary adjustments
  • Suggest better footwear for your sport

If needed, Dr. Forman can also provide you with custom-made orthotics. 

If you’re concerned about stress fractures and would like to schedule an appointment at our office in Scottsdale, Arizona, call 480-423-8400 or book it online.

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