What are the signs of a fracture (broken bone) in the foot? Severe pain, swelling and redness are the obvious answers. Many fractures occur when the something traumatic happens to the foot. For example, a heavy box dropping on it or falling down stairs can cause foot fractures. However, not all foot fractures are obvious. A stress fracture is a type of fracture that may not have much bruising. In fact, the signs of a stress fracture may not be noticeable at first to many people.
Stress fractures are not caused by one single incident. They usually happen over many days, weeks or months. Stress fractures occur when too much stress (force) is put on a bone that cannot handle it. The stress can include common activities such as running, dancing, exercising and marching. This type of fracture can happen to anyone, but it is seen a lot in athletes and “weekend warriors”. Weekend warriors are people who are mostly non-active during the normal workweek, and then use the weekend as the time to overindulge in exercise or weightlifting. As stated before a stress fracture will not have much bruising, but there will be some swelling. The pain of a stress fracture is not as severe as the pain cause by a traumatic fracture. Stress fracture pain can be thought of as an annoying ache. The pain gets worse with activity and improves with rest. To get an exact diagnosis, your podiatrist will order an X-ray or an MRI.
Treatment of a stress fracture doesn’t usually involve surgery. The injury will need to be immobilized and this is typically done with a cast. Resting the injury is very important. The length of the resting period depends on the bones involved in the stress injury and how severe the injury is. If you want to heal fully, follow ALL the directions of your podiatrist. Trying to be active too soon, could lead to another stress fracture. Once the resting period is over, you will need to slowly return to activity. Your podiatrist may even recommend rehabilitation. To help prevent injuring your foot again, your podiatrist can use tapping, pads, or create orthotics for you.
Stress fractures can be annoying especially if you are a person that likes to stay active. The important thing is to see your podiatrist for a definite diagnosis and to give yourself time to heal. Healing can take several weeks, but be patient. Being too eager to get back to your regular routine can cause complications and prolong your healing time. With so much going on in your life, who wants to be in a cast? Certainly, not you! Do yourself a favor and see your podiatrist about that achy pain in your foot —the sooner the better.