Foot Stress Fracture

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Photo of a Foot Stress Fracture, Image by ModPod Podiatry

Help my foot hurts! What’s going on?!

Hi thinkbigonline,

Foot pain can be one of the most debilitating conditions, not to mention extremely inconvenient as we enter the summer months where everyone wants to be active and have fun outdoors.

Lately, with all the increased activity with this warm weather, we’ve seen an increase in foot complaints and with it, a high number of stress fracture injuries.

A stress fracture is a nasty injury, but it’s important to note that it differs from a regular fracture in many ways.

Today I want to help you understand the difference so that you can get the help you need if you are unfortunate enough to be suffering with this condition without knowing.

So here’s the big question:  How do you know when you have a stress fracture?

As professional physiotherapists, we see a lot of nasty foot injures and have extensive experience in picking the difference between stress fractures and standard fractures (as well as other foot complaints).

By strict definition the  difference between a fracture and a stress fracture is that a fracture occurs when bone resistance is inferior to the load that it receives (i.e it breaks under force) but a stress fracture appears even if the force applied is inferior to the resistance (i.e the bone structure doesn’t break immediately under the strain).

Let me break that down for you in a different way.

In simpler terms, a stress fracture is the result of repetitive injury focused on a particular segment of bone, and is not associated with a history of acute trauma, but may occur as a result of overuse. Classic activities where this occurs is during activities such as dancing, jumping and running.

Poor balance, decreased flexibility, biomechanical issues such as excessive rolling in or out of the feet as well as inappropriate footwear can also be contributing factors. Combine any of these factors with repetitive dancing, jumping and running and you find yourself at high risk of stress fracture and being on the sidelines indefinitely.

The reality is that stress fractures can occur throughout all the skeletal system but, due to the complicated biomechanics of the foot, and the fact that we spend the majority of our day on our feet transmitting our body weight through these tiny bones, it is logical that they become especially frequent in this part of the body.

The most important role that we can play as a physio is in the prevention of a foot stress fracture.

This is achieved through noting the early signs of fracture which include; long lasting pain after an activity which is generally repetitive in nature(e.g.running,dancing, jumping) obvious swelling of the area and pain to the palpation.

In most cases avoiding a stress fracture of the foot is as simple as conducting an assessment of the biomechanics of the patient in the early stages of noticing pain and swelling. This assists our experts to identify overloading or biomechanical issues in the area, as these are the main contributors to injury and their identification is the key to prevention.

Once the stress fracture has been identified or it’s been noted that you are at risk, our team will take a number of steps in order to help you recover and prevent further injury.

Classic treatment will involve

  • Assessment and recommendation of appropriate footwear
  • Personalised stretches
  • Preventative and stabilising exercises
  • Gait analysis (gait scan) and gait re-education to aid in a speedy recovery and future prevention of injury
  • The possible prescription of supportive orthotics
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Taping techniques
  • A return to activity plan and a road map for recovery

An aim of treatment in the early stages will also be to reduce the discomfort cause by the swelling and inflammation

This can be achieved by using one or more of the following methods:

  • Electrotherapy
  • Taping
  • Reduction of load on the affected area
  • Rest and the use of an anti-inflammatory

Once the symptoms have settled, your physiotherapist will guide you on your personalised recovery to get back on track to doing what you love.

Got a foot complaint?

No problem, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to do:

Simply contact us at the practice and we will prioritise you as a matter of urgency.

Get your happy feet on!


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