Stress Fractures Treatment Questions and Answers
A stress fracture is an overuse injury. It occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Our orthopedic surgeons at The Spine and Orthopedic Institute at St. Vincent Charity can help you heal and safely return to activity.
What is Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone that can happen as a result of overuse or repetitive force, from activities like running or jumping, or carrying heavy weights. People who have osteoporosis, or any condition that weakens bone strength and density, may also develop stress fractures from normal use of a bone that is weakened.
The most common location for stress fractures is the lower leg and foot bones which bear the most weight, but they can also occur in the spine as a result of some sports or car accidents. Stress fractures are most often seen in athletes in sports like track and field, running, gymnastics, tennis, weightlifting, or basketball, as well as in dancers and military recruits.
Stress fractures usually happen when someone starts a new activity or increases the intensity or frequency of an activity too quickly. They can also be a result of improper technique, incorrect equipment, changes to the surface used (for example, from a treadmill to concrete, or natural to artificial turf), or inadequate footwear. Bone gets stronger with increased activity to be able to handle more force, but this process takes time, and if the demand placed on a bone is too much, too quickly, and if not enough recovery time is provided, you could risk stress fractures.
There are also other factors that can increase the chance of stress fractures, such as age, weight, anatomic problems, or medical conditions. These factors should always be considered when starting a new sport or activity to ensure you are progressing at the right pace for your body.
How do you detect Stress fractures?
Stress fractures can sometimes be difficult to detect as they can be a gradual pain. You may first notice only mild pain or aching that starts after an activity that decreases when you rest. If the pain gets worse over time, doesn’t stop when you rest, if there is any swelling in the area of the pain, or if you notice a difference in your ability to bear weight, you should see a doctor.
Orthopedic surgeons are specialists in injuries, diseases, or conditions of the musculoskeletal system. They can diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate stress fractures. The Spine and Orthopedic Institute at St. Vincent Charity in Medina OH specializes in stress fractures, so contact us through our website to learn more about treatment options.
What happens if a stress fracture is left untreated?
If a stress fracture isn’t treated, it can get worse. In some cases, the bone can move out of proper alignment. If a stress fracture doesn’t heal properly, you can be left with chronic pain, limited mobility, long-term reduction in your ability to do certain activities, or may require surgery.
It’s also important to make changes to remove the cause of the stress fractures so you aren’t at risk of developing more stress fractures in the future.
How do orthopedic doctors treat stress fractures?
First, your orthopedic specialist will take a history, focusing on your activities and training schedule, as well as your personal health history, medications you take, and the type of work you do. They will do a physical examination and may send you for diagnostic testing such as x-rays, MRI, or a bone scan.
Once a stress fracture is diagnosed, your doctor will provide treatment recommendations, which may include the following:
- Stop the activity
- Ice the injured area
- Use pain relief medication when needed
- Rest for two to eight weeks
- You may need to use crutches or a cast to reduce bone stress while you’re healing
- Some stress fractures require surgical implantation of pins, screws, or plates to heal
- Make adjustments to how you’ll resume your activity, sometimes with the advice of a physical therapist
- Consider alternating some non-impact exercises like swimming or cycling with higher-impact exercises
Our orthopedic surgeons at The Spine and Orthopedic Institute at St. Vincent Charity can help you heal and safely return to activity. We care about your health and want you back on your feet again. We serve patients from Medina OH, Middleburg Heights OH, Akron OH, Parma OH, and Wellington OH.