A stress fracture in your foot or ankle often results in pain, swelling and tenderness. Stress fractures involve a small crack or severe bruising found inside the bone. These tiny cracks are often caused over a period of time, from overuse and repetitive motions. They can also be associated with sudden changes or increases in physical activity.
Stress fractures may be the result from several causes, rather than one issue in particular. Bone insufficiency, poor conditioning, improper technique, inadequate equipment and changes in training surfaces, may all be responsible for causing this common source of pain. It is also possible to sustain one during a fall, a sports injury, or from dropping something heavy on top of your foot.
Because feet and ankles are responsible for weight bearing activities, it is extremely common to sustain a stress fracture in these areas. Here is an overview of four different types of stress fractures located in the foot and ankle.
- Navicular: This condition is caused by an incomplete crack in the navicular bone. Navicular describes the bones located in the mid-foot. Fractures in this area are caused by excessive weight bearing activities over time.
- Metatarsal: This type of fracture impacts one or more of the five metatarsal bones located in the forefoot.
- Ankle: While this pain is sometimes misinterpreted as shin splints, stress fractures in the ankle are difficult to diagnose. The area of the ankle is quite complex, so this common injury can sometimes be overlooked. It’s important to consult an experienced physician if you have an ankle injury that is causing you pain.
- Heel: This large bone, forming the foundation of the back of the foot, is susceptible to stress fractures as well. These injuries are more severe when they involve the heel bone. Sometimes they involve damage to the joints or even the cartilage. Heel pain or fractures could become a chronic issue, so it very important to treat the symptoms early.
These four different types of stress fractures in the foot and ankle have different levels of pain and consequences. Regardless, it is always necessary to treat the pain before it worsens. The best way to treat any of these areas (your foot, heel, toes, and ankle) is by using the RICE method. This includes: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If normal activities become too painful to complete, its advisable to rest the area for some time.
Stress fractures may become severe if left untreated. If after following the RICE protocol and slowly returning to your activities still leaves you in pain, you should seek medical attention from a qualified physician like an orthopedic doctor. A thorough medical examination may be necessary to confirm the type of injury and best treatment plan.