Unhappy Feet: Symptoms of a Foot Stress Fracture

Jun 13, 2024 | Treatment | 0 comments

Your feet carry you through your day. They endure tremendous stress with every step they take. Sometimes, that stress can become too much. Stress on the bones can lead to small cracks called stress fractures. While these cracks aren’t as serious as a complete break, stress fractures can be incredibly painful and disrupt your ability to participate in daily activities. 

Think your foot pain might be a stress fracture? Learn more about foot stress fractures, what they are, signs to watch for, and what to do if you suspect you might have one.

What Is a Stress Fracture? 

Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone. They can develop over time, often due to repetitive stress. If the bone doesn’t have enough time to heal, those cracks can become larger over time. In the foot, stress fractures are most common in the metatarsals (the long bones in the middle of your foot) and the heel. 

Several things can contribute to a stress fracture in the foot, including: 

  • Increased activity — A sudden increase in physical activity, especially high-impact activities, can put more stress on your bones. 
  • Inadequate footwear — Shoes that don’t provide adequate foot support can increase the risk of a stress fracture. 
  • Certain sports — Activities that involve repetitive foot movements, like running or jumping in basketball, tennis, or dance, put feet at a higher risk of developing a stress fracture. 
  • Underlying medical conditions — Bone density issues like osteoporosis can make you more susceptible to a stress fracture. 

Anyone can experience a foot stress fracture, but athletes and those who participate in high-impact activities are more likely to develop them. 

Understanding Symptoms of a Foot Stress Fracture

Foot stress fractures can be sneaky to detect. The pain can develop gradually, and you might mistake it for a different injury. Below are the usual symptoms of a foot stress fracture. 

Pain and Tenderness

Pain is the most common symptom of a stress fracture. The pain might worsen with activity, especially weight-bearing activities like walking or running, and improve with rest. The area around the fracture might be tender to the touch. 

Swelling and Bruising 

You might see some mild swelling or inflammation around the fracture. While not always present, there may also be some bruising. 

Many people alter their walking patterns when they have a stress fracture in their foot to avoid putting weight on the area. Athletes might notice a decrease in their performance. But it’s important to remember that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. 

If you are experiencing any symptoms of a foot stress fracture, you should talk to a healthcare professional, especially if the symptoms are getting worse. 

Next Steps for a Foot Stress Fracture

If you suspect you have a stress fracture in your foot, here’s what to do: 

  1. Rest — This is the most essential step when dealing with a stress fracture. You may need to reduce or stop activities while you are experiencing pain.
  2. Ice — Applying ice packs to the painful area for 15-20 minutes several times daily can help reduce pain and swelling. 
  3. Elevate — Whenever possible, keep your foot elevated above your heart to reduce swelling and promote healing in the bone. 
  4. Medication — Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage your pain and reduce inflammation in the foot, which can help the healing process. 
  5. Doctor — Don’t live with the pain. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Your doctor can schedule tests, such as X-rays, to confirm the presence of a stress fracture and help you develop a treatment plan. That plan might include rest, physical therapy, or medication. 

Stick to your doctor’s advice. It will help shorten your healing time and prevent complications. 

Don’t Let Foot Pain Slow You Down 

Foot stress fractures can be a (literal) pain. With a quick diagnosis and the right treatment plan, you can be back on your feet as quickly as possible. East Adams Rural Healthcare has the healthcare professionals you need for comprehensive care of your feet, including stress fractures. 
If you are experiencing foot pain, get in touch. Call us at 509-659-1200 or fill out our online form to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help with foot pain, stress fractures, and all your healthcare needs.