Bones provide the structural support for the body. Your bones are constantly enduring the stress associated with the body's movements, and this stress can cause you to develop stress fractures in the foot and ankle.
Although a stress fracture isn't a debilitating injury, it can lead to more serious damage if not treated properly. The more you know about stress fractures, the easier it will be for you to seek medical attention when you suffer a stress fracture in the future.
What Causes Stress Fractures?
A bone can sustain a stress fracture at any time, but the most common cause of these injuries is a sudden increase in the amount of physical activity you participate in. High-impact activities (like distance running) increase your risk of developing a stress fracture.
It's important that you ease your way into a new exercise routine so that your bones will have time to adjust to the new workload. If you do not allow the bones to prepare for the transition, you will likely find yourself dealing with a stress fracture shortly after you increase your activity levels.
What Are the Symptoms of Stress Fractures?
Many stress fractures go unnoticed, or they are diagnosed as something different. It's not uncommon for a general practitioner to misdiagnose a stress fracture as a sprain, shin splints, or plantar fasciitis. The fracture may be too small to appear on an X-ray, making it a challenge for your family doctor to spot.
A foot and ankle specialist can differentiate between a stress fracture and a more benign injury, like a sprain. Schedule an appointment if you notice ongoing pain or inflammation because stress fractures will continue to worsen over time.
How Are Stress Fractures Treated?
Once it has been determined that you have a stress fracture, you doctor will suggest that you get plenty of rest. Avoiding strenuous activity while the fracture heals is one of the best ways to give the bones in your body time to reinforce the affected area and fully heal the stress fracture.
If the fracture is in a location that sees a lot of movement like the lower ankle, an ankle doctor may fit you with a walking boot or give you crutches to help you keep the injured area immobilized. Rest, combined with protective equipment, can help you ensure a speedy recovery from any stress fractures that you might find yourself battling in the future.