Stress is more powerful than you might think. The longer something is under stress, the harder it is to withstand the strain. Think about it: press long enough or hard enough on a metal beam and even steel can snap. The same is certainly true of your bones. Enough pressure or strain, particularly over a period of time, can lead to painful stress fractures in your lower limbs.
A stress fracture is a small, thin crack in a bone that results from constant or repetitive strain. Overuse is the most common reason people develop this kind of sports injury in the lower limbs, though people with thin or naturally weak bone tissue are prone to the problem as well. If your feet aren’t conditioned to handle the strain of your activities, they may not absorb shock efficiently. This is a common problem for athletes, particularly for runners. Your feet may easily end up overworked by the intensity, duration, or distance you push yourself to when you’re active. The repetitive hard impacts or extended time on your feet strains your bones until they crack.
Many people, particularly athletes with a high pain tolerance, may not notice this injury developing right away. This is an overuse problem, so the symptoms develop over an extended period of time. Slowly a particular area of your foot will feel increasingly uncomfortable, especially when you put pressure on it. You may notice a little swelling around the fracture site, and it may be tender to the touch. In some cases, the injury might even bruise.
Fortunately, nearly all stress fractures can be treated conservatively. Our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC, will have to carefully examine your feet to diagnose your condition. We’ll use a variety of tests and diagnostic images to rule out other issues. Many of these thin cracks don’t appear clearly on X-rays, if at all, so you may need other types of bone images. Once we know the location of the damage and how severe it is, we can help you begin to heal.
The most important step is to reduce the pressure on your injured foot to allow the bone to recover. Stop all hard impact activities and limit the time you spend standing. For serious or multiple stress fractures, you may need to wear a special boot to keep everything immobile while you heal. Ice the painful area when it hurts to help reduce swelling and inflammation. We might recommend anti-inflammatory medications for particularly painful cases. Once the bones have healed, you can begin putting more weight on your foot again. Physical therapy can help you recondition your lower limbs for your activities. Very rarely does anyone need surgery to heal this injury.
Although smaller than a big, traumatic break, stress fractures are painful and can become quite serious if left untreated. Cracked bones are likely to snap completely under more pressure. Let our experts at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC, help you heal. Call one of our offices to make an appointment today.