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Health Library

Stress Fractures

What Is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture is an overuse injury or a repetitive action injury. It is a common sports-related injury and occurs most often in the foot and lower leg (weight-bearing bones). A stress fracture occurs when a muscle is overtired or is under too much stress. The stress translates to the bone causing the bone to break/fracture.


Common Causes

  • Overuse
  • Repetitive activities
  • Starting a new activity or aggressive workout
  • Running or jumping on hard surfaces (distance runners, basketball players, dancers)
  • Increased risk factors that contribute to impaired bone health
  • Dietary abnormalities
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Osteoporosis

Diagnosis

History and physical exam by a musculoskeletal expert is the first step. X-ray, MRI, a bone scan may be recommended.


Treatment

Non-Surgical
It typically takes six to eight weeks for a stress fracture to heal, so your physician may recommend rest and non-weight bearing activity for that time. Protective footwear may be recommended to reduce stress on your foot and leg.

Surgical
Some stress fractures require surgery, called internal fixation, where the bone is supported by inserting a type of fastener like a pin, screw or plate.


Prevention

  • Gradually introduce new activities into your workout routine
  • Cross-training and alternating activities
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