Stress fractures – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Healthcare professional, dressed in a white uniform, wrapping a bandage around a patient's leg, with both individuals engaging in a positive interaction.

Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone induced by repeated or excessive stress. Stress fractures are a prevalent type of injury, especially among athletes.


They are most commonly found in the feet, ankles, and legs, although they can also occur in other regions of the body. Symptoms vary depending on the damaged bone, however, they may include pain, edema, and stiffness. Rest and immobilization of the afflicted area are used to treat stress fractures. Surgery may be required in some circumstances.


Please keep reading to find out more about what causes stress fractures, how to recognize them, and how to treat them.


What are Stress Fractures?

Let us first explain this condition in detail so that you understand what we’re talking about. So, Stress fractures are actually tiny cracks in the bone brought on by abuse or chronic stress. They’re particularly frequent in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower legs.


It is widely understood that stress fractures are most likely to occur in the lower leg and foot’s weight-bearing bones. You’ve probably seen that when people start exercising or purposely increase the intensity of their exercises or workouts, they tend to suffer stress fractures.


Stress fractures may happen to everyone; however, certain professions are more vulnerable than others. Military trainees, for example, are prone to stress fractures during initial training. Track and field athletes are also susceptible to stress fractures.


What Causes a Stress Fracture?

Overuse, such as running or playing tennis, is the most common cause of stress fractures. People with strong bones overuse their feet and ankles through repetitive action. This is especially true for athletes who compete in high-impact sports.


However, they can also be caused by osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and increases the risk of fractures. People with very weak bones as a result of this osteoporosis might sustain a stress fracture in the foot even from relatively low-impact activities like frequent walking.


Some additional causes include:


People who take pharmaceutical drugs that diminish bone density.


Shoes that are worn out or have little shock absorption.


Calcium and vitamin D deficiency weakens your bones.


What are the Symptoms of a Stress Fracture, and How can you tell if you Have One?


Pain is the most typical symptom of a stress fracture in the foot or ankle. The pain normally starts slowly and intensifies with weight-bearing activity.


Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • You may feel pain while sleeping.

  • Inability to support the weight.

  • Swelling on the top of the foot or around the ankle

  • Bruising is a possibility.

  • Tenderness to touch.


Risk factors:

Factors that can increase your risk of stress fractures include:


Specific sports. People who participate in high-impact sports are more likely to suffer from stress fractures.


Age: Older athletes may suffer from osteoporosis or other bone density problems.


Gender: Females are more likely than males to suffer from stress fractures.


Nutrient deficiency: Dietary deficiencies, such as a lack of calcium, can put you in danger.


History of stress fractures. If you’ve previously had one or more stress fractures, even if they’ve healed now, you’re more likely to get more.



A stress fracture is diagnosed by considering your indications and symptoms as well as the history of the injury, as well as completing a physical examination. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may also recommend X-ray imaging and, in certain situations, an MRI.


How are Stress Fractures Treated, and how Long Does it take to Heal Completely?

Treatment typically involves resting the affected limb, avoiding weight-bearing activity, and using crutches or a cane to keep weight off the injured bone. In some circumstances, a splint or cast may also be required to allow the bone to mend properly. Most stress fractures will heal on their own if you limit your activities and wear protective footwear for a while.


Some of the treatments include:


Ice: Cold Therapy is one of the most effective home remedies. All you have to do is apply an ice pack to the injured area.


Medication: You can relieve pain and swelling by using anti-inflammatory medications.


Protective footwear: Wearing protective footwear may be necessary to decrease stress on your foot and leg.


Using crutches to keep weight off your foot or leg until the bone heals.


Surgery may be required in some circumstances to repair the bone. This is known as internal fixation. The surgeon may employ pins, screws, or metal plates depending on the location of the fracture.


Most stress fractures heal in six to eight weeks with proper care. Some fractures, however, may take many months or longer to heal completely.


Are There Any Ways to Prevent Stress Fractures from Happening in the First Place?

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of getting a stress fracture.


First, make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These nutrients are essential for bone health.


Second, avoid running on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt; instead, stick to softer surfaces like dirt or grass.


Third, increase your mileage gradually instead of increasing it too quickly.


Fourth, wear shoes that fit well and offer adequate support. Finally, listen to your body and take a break if you’re feeling sore or fatigued.


Following these simple tips can help reduce your risk of stress fractures.


Stress fractures are a rather common injury, particularly among athletes. They can be excruciatingly painful and take weeks or months to recover. However, there are ways to avoid stress fractures in the first place. You can lower your risk of stress fractures by having enough calcium and vitamin D, avoiding running on hard surfaces, and gradually increasing your mileage. Listen to your body and take a break if you encounter pain or exhaustion. You may avoid stress fractures and maintain your bones healthy with proper treatment and prevention. Finally, see your doctor so that you can address your problem properly.