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Stress Fracture vs. Full Break

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

If you crack a china cup, is it still broken? The answer is yes, but it’s not the same as shattering it. The cup is still intact and may not be hard to fix. A cup with a piece broken off won’t function normally and has to be repaired to work. However, a crack will still leak your drink all over. Cracks and full breaks are similar in your bones. A stress fracture is like simply cracking your cup, while a full break is much more serious—but both mean your foot is broken.


Broken foot bones of any kind have a few things in common: they weaken your lower limbs, cause pain, and risk more serious problems if they aren’t treated. You can’t support pressure on a broken bone, even one that’s just cracked, without discomfort. Other symptoms are similar, too, like swelling and tenderness around the wound. Still, the damage isn’t the same.

A stress fracture is a thin crack that doesn’t cut all the way through the bone in your foot, much like a crack in a cup. It develops slowly over time, typically as the result of overwork and strain. When your foot gets overworked, the stress of repetitive hard impacts gets absorbed into your bones and weakens them until they crack. You then feel increasing pain whenever your foot is under pressure.


By contrast, a fully broken bone cuts all the way through the bone tissue, much like breaking a shard off a china cup. It’s normally a sudden accident from tripping, falling, dropping something heavy on lower limbs, or being in some other kind of accident, though it can develop when a stress fracture goes untreated for too long. The pain is immediate and intense. If the ends of the bone don’t line up correctly, they may not be able to heal completely.


For both injuries, you’ll need to stabilize your foot, limit weight on the limb, and rest so the bone tissue can heal. Whether you think you have a full break or just a crack, you need proper treatment to restore your lower limbs. Let our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC help you get the care you need. Make an appointment online, or by calling our Metairie, LA, office at (504) 708-4810.


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