Signs You're Living With a Stress Fracture in Your Foot

Your feet contain about a quarter of your body’s bones — 26 in each to be exact — and these tiny bones are responsible for an awful lot in terms of mobility and support. In the course of their daily pursuits, they can develop small fractures, which may not be obvious unless you know what to look for.

At our practice, Dr. Francine Rhinehart specializes in the form and function of feet, providing the services you need for healthy, great-looking feet. As part of our efforts, we believe that education is key, which is why we’ve pulled together the following information on recognizing the signs of stress fractures in your feet.

Stress fractures 101

Before we get into the warning flags that you may have a stress fracture in your foot, let’s take a general look at the problem. Unlike a broken bone, which usually occurs in an acute trauma, a stress fracture typically develops over time because of overuse or added stresses on certain bones.

Stress fractures in your feet often develop in your metatarsal bones — the long, thin bones that lead to your toes. In many cases, these fractures affect your second or third metatarsals, which are the longest of these bones.

Outside of your metatarsals, stress fractures commonly develop in your calcaneus (your heel), in your talus (a bone in your ankle); and in your navicular (a small bone on the top of your foot).

As we mentioned, most stress fractures occur because of overuse and are further exacerbated when you keep applying pressure to the affected bone because you’re unaware that there’s a problem.

Signs of a stress fracture

To avoid worsening a stress fracture, it’s important to allow your bone time to heal, which means you need to recognize the signs that there’s a fracture in the first place.

The first symptom to look out for is pain, which typically flares during and immediately after activity and then subsides when you’re at rest.

In addition to the pain, you may experience some swelling in the area, as well as tenderness to the touch and visible bruising, though bruising doesn’t always develop.

Steps to take for a suspected stress fracture

Anytime you experience pain or swelling in your feet, you should first apply the RICE method:

You should practice the RICE method at the first signs of trouble, and then make an appointment to come see us if your symptoms don’t improve after 24-48 hours. It’s especially important to come in if you suspect you may have a stress fracture, as we use advanced imaging to get a closer look at the structures inside your feet. 

If we find that you have a small break in one of the bones of your feet or ankles, we can take the steps necessary to encourage your bone to heal and rebuild itself. Typically, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and rest are key, as well as shoe inserts moving forward in order to avoid re-injury.

If you have any questions about stress fractures or would like to make an appointment at our Oak Cliff office in Dallas, Texas, simply click here to get started.

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