Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone from chronic overuse. Most stress fractures occur in the lower leg and foot. They can also occur in the hip and other areas.

  • Causes

    A blow to the bone does not cause a stress fracture. Rather, it is typically caused by repeated stress or overuse. Some causes are:

    • Increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too quickly (most common)
    • Switching to a different playing or running surface
    • Wearing improper or old shoes

    Stress fractures can worsen by continued physical stress. Smoking can also make stress fractures worse because it interferes with bone healing.

  • Definition

    A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone from chronic overuse. Most stress fractures occur in the lower leg and foot. They can also occur in the hip and other areas.

    Stress Fractures of the Tibia and Fibula
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and examine the injured area for localized pain and swelling.

    Tests may include:

    • X-ray — to look for break in the bone

      • Stress fractures are very tiny and usually not seen on an x-ray until at least two weeks after symptoms begin.
    • MRI scan — to look for swelling and inflammation inside the bone
    • Bone scan — to look for evidence of a stress fracture

  • Prevention

    To reduce your chance of getting a stress fracture:

    • Wear proper footwear
    • Run on a softer surface, such as grass, dirt, or certain outdoor tracks
    • Gradually increase the amount and intensity of an activity
    • Do not overdo any activity
    • Weight reduction can reduce stress on the bones
    • Avoid smoking

  • Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
    Risk factors for a stress fracture include:

    • Sex: female
    • Certain sports, especially involving jumping or running:
      • Tennis
      • Track, especially distance running
      • Gymnastics
      • Dance
      • Basketball
    • Amenorrhea
      (women only)
    • Reduced bone thickness or density
    • Poor muscle strength or flexibility
    • Overweight or underweight
    • Poor physical condition

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Localized pain on the bone
    • Pain when pressure is applied directly over the fracture and the area around it
    • Pain when putting stress on the affected leg
    • Swelling and warmth at injury site

  • Treatment

    Treatment includes: