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Have you ever gone to the doctor thinking, no KNOWING, that you know, what's going on? Only to be surprised to learn that it's something else entirely. That's a very common story when it comes to a stress fracture. My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas stress fractures always seem to surprise my patients. In today's video we'll discuss why it's important to identify stress fractures early so they can be treated properly.
A stress fracture is a nondisplaced break in a bone. It's due to excessive pressure on that bone. The persistent pressure causes the bone to fatigue and weaken. This leads to the bone breaking.
Stress fractures are common in the foot in the metatarsal bones, the tarsal bones that make up the middle of the foot and the heel bone. Now you'd think that you would know that your foot is broken. With a stress fracture, there usually isn't a memorable event that led to the bone breaking. For instance, if you twist your foot or jump off a ladder, you'll understand how that could lead to a fracture of your foot. But that's not the case for a stress fracture. A stress fracture may occur if you're training for a marathon or during a long hike. Anything that involves a persistent and repetitive pressure on the bone.
You may start feeling pain when you're bearing weight. This can lead to swelling and bruising. That's usually what brings you into the office. I'll take an x-ray and I'm going to break the news to you that you're suffering from a stress fracture.
A common reaction that I get after sharing that news is being asked "Well, it's a fracture, but the bone isn't broken, right?" Call it what you want, a fracture IS a broken bone. It may just appear as a crack in the bone or a hairline fracture, but it is essential to treat it as you would any other broken bone. This includes immobilizing the foot to ensure the fracture doesn't worsen and become displaced. Depending on where the fracture is, you may need to use crutches or a knee scooter to keep the pressure off of your foot.
Of course, you'll need to stop training, or hiking, or running. Anything that causes stress to the fractured bone. For how long? It take six to eight weeks for the fracture to clinically heal. That's just how long it takes for bone to heal. No negotiation will change that. You'll typically be able to return to activity and exercise after about 12 weeks.
What if you don't wait? What if you keep running? If that's the case, you'd run the risk of causing the fracture to worsen and become displaced. This may require surgery to fix the break. That will extend your recovery time. If a displaced fracture is not addressed, it can heal improperly, which can lead to arthritic changes. Then you'll have ongoing pain and problems. No one wants that to happen.