Stress fractures in your foot or ankle typically cause pain, tenderness and swelling. A stress fracture is a minor crack or significant bruising inside the bone. Overuse and other types of repetitive stress over time causes these small cracks in the bone. Sudden changes in physical activity or a sudden increase in activity can also cause stress fractures.
There can be multiple underlying causes of a stress fracture, rather than a single problem. Changes in a training surface, poor physical conditioning, bad training techniques and bone insufficiency can all contribute to stress fractures. An injury from a fall, dropping an object on your foot or during sports can all be acute causes of stress fractures.
Since the feet and ankles are weight-bearing areas of the body, stress fractures are extremely common in these parts of the body. There are four types of stress fractures that can occur in the foot and ankle, they include navicular, metatarsal, ankle and heel stress fractures.
A navicular stress fracture occurs due to an incomplete break in the navicular bone. The term “navicular” is used to describe the bones in the mid-foot. When fractures occur in this area, they are typically caused by prolonged weight bearing activities.
Metatarsal stress fractures occur in one or more of the metatarsal bones inside the forefoot.
Stress fractures in the ankle can easily be misinterpreted as shin splints, so stress fractures in this area can be difficult to diagnose. The ankle is a complex structure, making it easy to overlook common injuries. An experienced doctor for diagnosing an ankle injury.
The large heel bone, which helps form the foundation for the back of the foot, is easily susceptible to stress fractures. Injuries involving the heel bone are often more severe. The joint and/or cartilage can be damaged. Pain or fractures in the heel can become chronic, making early diagnosis and treatment important.
There are different amounts of pain and long-term effects from these different types of stress fractures in the foot and ankle. No matter the location, it is important to treat any pain before it becomes worse. The best home care technique for treating pain or injuries to your foot or ankle is using RICE. RICE means: rest, ice, compression and elevation. If basic activities are painful, it is important to rest the area for an extended time.
If left untreated, stress fractures can become severe and eventually cause a break in the bone. If RICE is not effective and daily activities continue to be painful, seek medical attention from an emergency room or your primary care doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment plan. X-rays and other imaging tests are usually necessary to determine the extent of an injury.