How are stress fractures different from broken bones?

Whether you're running, jumping, walking, or simply standing and bearing weight, your feet and ankles are under tremendous strain and subject to a wide-range of injuries and disorders. Stress fractures are common foot and ankle injuries that require skilled professional podiatric treatment to ensure proper healing and avoid complications such as long-term mobility issues. Here's what you should know about stress fractures, including how they differ from traditional breaks and how Massapequa Podiatry Associate's skilled podiatrists, Dr. Corey Fox and Dr. Justin LoBello, help patients suffering from these injuries recover and return to activity. Stress fractures vs. regular breaks

Understanding Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are broken bones. However, there are a few key things that distinguish them from typical breaks. For example, while normal fractures usually involve bones that are completely broken, stress fractures are incomplete breaks that often appear as small, thin cracks on the surface of a bone.

Common Causes

Completely broken bones in the feet and ankles are often caused by a sudden traumatic event like a bad fall, a serious car accident, or having something heavy dropped on the foot. Stress fractures, on the other hand, tend to develop slowly, over time, as a result of overuse, repetitive movements, or high-impact sports and activities. They can also be caused by medical problems or treatments that weaken bones or cause nutrient deficiencies.

Stress Fracture Symptoms

The symptoms associated with broken bones and stress fractures present in completely different ways. With an acute break, you may hear a pop or snap, accompanied by immediate and intense pain, as well as have significant swelling and bruising. Although a stress fracture can also cause pain and swelling, it tends to be gradual or periodic and much less severe. Symptoms such as tenderness and pain are often most noticeable during activity but may ease with rest. Stress fractures may be less dramatic than acute breaks, but without the proper treatment, these injuries can lead to complications or even lifelong limitations. Common complications include fractures that fail to heal (known as nonunions), bones that heal in abnormal positions (known as malunions), and recurring fractures.

Diagnosis

X-rays are the most common tool used in the diagnosis of traumatic bone breaks; however, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is considered the best way to diagnose stress fractures in the feet and ankles. Not only can an MRI pick up on lower grade stress bone injuries before they'd show up in an X-ray, it's also better at telling the difference between soft tissue injuries and stress fractures. In some cases, X-rays or bone scans may be used to provide additional information about your injury.

Treating a Podiatric Stress Fracture

Minimizing the weight placed on your foot or ankle and immobilization of the affected bone are essential for complete breaks, as well as for stress fractures. Depending on several factors including the severity and location of your injury, our treatment recommendations may include the use of a brace, walking boot, or cast. Although surgery for stress fractures is relatively rare, in some cases it may be necessary to promote faster or more complete healing.

Take Advantage of Our Comprehensive Podiatry Care

Massapequa Podiatry Associates provides complete podiatric care for all foot and ankle conditions, including fractures. Whether you're suffering from a stress fracture, a traumatic break, or another issue entirely, our dedicated podiatrists will work diligently to provide an accurate diagnosis and help you find the treatment option that's right for you and your lifestyle. Don't put off the exceptional care your feet deserve. Complete our contact form, or call our Long Island office at 516-541-9000 (or 877-674-7422) to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fox or Dr. LoBello.

For additional information on our podiatry treatments and services, browse our online FAQs, or request a free copy of our book, Heal Your Heal Pain – A Guide to Understanding Its Causes and Treatments.

 

Dr. Justin LoBello
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