A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone. They are most common in the lower leg and foot.
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This fracture is caused by repeated stress or overuse from:
- Increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too quickly
- Changing to a new playing surface
- Not wearing the right shoes or wearing old shoes for a sport
Stress fractures are more common in women. Things that may raise the risk of this fracture are:
- A sudden increase in activity
- Not getting enough rest between physical activities
- Playing sports that involve running and jumping, such as track and field, tennis, gymnastics, and basketball
- Having female athlete triad
- Bone disorders, such as osteoporosis and Paget disease
- Low levels of vitamin D and calcium
- Alcohol use disorder
Symptoms may be:
- Pain that is worse with activity and better with rest
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. They will also ask about regular activities. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect a stress fracture based on symptoms. Images may be taken if pain is severe or fracture is not healing as expected. Tests may be:
It can take 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone as it heals. Options may be:
- Walking boot, crutches or a cane to keep weight off of a foot or leg stress fracture.
- Limiting activity that is causing pain or stress.
- Medicine to ease pain and swelling.
- Exercises to help with muscle strength and range of motion will be needed.
To lower the chance of a stress fracture:
- Slowly increase the amount and intensity of activities over time.
- Wear the right shoes for sports.
- Eat a diet that contains foods with vitamin D and calcium.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Femoral stress fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/femoral-stress-fracture. Accessed September 30, 2020.
Stress fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00112. Accessed September 30, 2020.
Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/stress-fractures-of-the-foot-and-ankle. Accessed September 30, 2020.
Tibial plateau fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tibial-plateau-fracture. Accessed September 30, 2020.
Welck MJ, Hayes T, et al. Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. Injury 2017 Aug;48(8):1722.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 9/8/2020