Stress Fractures: Cracked Weight-Bearing Bones
Cracks weaken solid objects. Think about the glass in your windshield. As a solid piece, the windshield successfully protects you from the blowing air outside your car and the little debris that car and truck tires can kick up. When it cracks, however, you’re concerned about it suddenly breaking under pressure. You should have the same concern for stress fractures in your feet.
Cracking Your Bones Little by Little
Stress fractures are small breaks in weight-bearing bones. Thin cracks that don’t cut all the way through your bones appear over time when your limb is repeatedly stressed and subjected to hard pounding or heavy pressure. These are most common in your feet and lower legs. Generally they develop when your feet are fatigued or overworked and unable to absorb pressure efficiently. The shock of the impact strains the hard tissue and fractures it slightly.
This painfully weakens your lower limbs. Because the injury develops over time, usually the pain starts out fairly small. You may notice some discomfort when you put pressure on the affected foot or participate in certain hard-impact activities and find it improves when you rest. As time goes on and the cracks worsen, however, the foot pain will increase, and even just standing or walking around may become uncomfortable for you. The area around the tiny fracture may swell and occasionally bruise as well.
Running the Risks
Anyone can develop stress fractures, though athletes are particularly prone to them. The heavy, repetitive pounding in sports strains your weight-bearing bones, particularly if your lower limbs are not well-prepared or conditioned to handle your activities. However, if you’re out of shape and start a new exercise routine, or are in shape and either change routines or rapidly increase the intensity of some activity, you also risk injuring your bones.
No matter how the problem developed, you have to have it treated. The sooner you take care of the issue, the better. Failing to deal with splits in your bone tissue can have painful consequences later. The cracks weaken your limbs and may break entirely under too much pressure.
Healing the Cracks
The good news is that the vast majority of stress fractures can be managed conservatively. First they need to be accurately diagnosed. Dr. Darren Silvester and our team at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will examine your lower limbs carefully and use tests to check for cracks in bone tissue. The tiny fractures can be hard to spot on X-rays, so we may need to use a variety of images to confirm the condition. From there we can begin your recovery.
Next, you will have to take a break from all hard-impact activities to allow your bones to heal. You’ll also need to reduce the pressure on your lower limbs so you aren’t constantly aggravating the injury. In severe cases, you may need to wear a cast to immobilize your foot for a period of time. Other times a walking boot or stiff-soled, supportive shoe may be all you need to relieve the stress on the weight-bearing bones.
Then, ice the painful, swollen area to decrease the inflammation and edema. We may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications for this. Once the pain is gone, you’ll be able to start physical therapy to restore your foot to full strength. You should still take it easy until the foot has completely recovered, though. Cracks that don’t respond to conservative therapies, or that are particularly big, may need surgery to fully heal—though that is rare.
You shouldn’t put up with the pain of stress fractures. You should invest in your own recovery and take care of your lower limbs so you enjoy your activities without pain. Let Dr. Darren Silvester and the Nest Steep Foot & Ankle Clinic staff help you get back to a pain-free, active life. Contact our Pleasanton, TX, office for an appointment to diagnose and treat your foot pain today. Just call (830) 569-3338 or use the web request form.