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A march stress fracture is a small break in a metatarsal bone of the foot that occurs without a major traumatic episode. There are 5 metatarsal bones in each foot. They are located in the area between the toes and the ankle. They were called march fractures because they were first seen in military recruits because of excess marching. These fractures still occur in that group.
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A march stress fracture is an overuse injury caused by repetitive stress to the foot.
Factors that may increase the chance of getting a march stress fracture include:
A march stress fracture may cause pain in the middle or front of the foot. There may be swelling. The foot will feel better when resting and feel worse with activity.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. An orthopedist focuses on bones. A sports medicine physician works on sports-related injuries.
Imaging tests evaluate the bones in your foot and surrounding structures. These may include:
Stress fractures are treated with rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The foot will need rest for 3-6 weeks. Crutches may be needed to avoid bearing weight on the foot. Sometimes a brace or cast is used for a short time to aid healing.
To help reduce your chance of a march stress fracture, take the following steps:
American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Fractures (broken bones). Ortho Info—American Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00139&return_link=0. Updated October 2012. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Metatarsal stress fractures. Sports injury website. Available at: http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot-heel-pain/metatarsal-fracture. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Stress fracture. Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/sports_injury/stress_fractures.html. Updated October 2014. Accessed August 30, 2017.
What is a stress fracture and how should it be treated? American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/ct0398.html. Accessed August 30, 2017.
4/24/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114482/Decision-rules-for-imaging-of-ankle-and-foot-injuries: Wise JN, Weissman BN, et al. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for chronic foot pain. Available at: https://acsearch.acr.org/docs/69424/Narrative. Updated 2013. Accessed August 18, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 4/24/2014