Stress Fractures: Symptoms and Treatment

Stress fractures create a great deal of discomfort and pain. Commonly diagnosed in feet, shins and wrists, this type of injury can significantly impact your daily life. Stress fractures are highly common and can present as a variety of orthopaedic issues.

If you have been coping with a nagging pain in your foot, wrist or shin, you might be avoiding a trip to the orthopaedic surgeon, hoping it will resolve on its own. So how can you tell if the pain you are experiencing is a stress fracture? And if so, what can be done to heal the injury?

Stress fractures are simply small cracks in the bone. They tend to develop as a result of overuse or repetitive motion in a certain part of the body. Running, jumping, or any other repetitive action, especially involving the feet, legs, and ankles, can result in a stress fracture.

One of the primary causes of stress fractures is doing too much too quickly or pushing your body beyond its normal routine. This is especially true with high impact exercises such as running long distances.

So how do you know if your pain is the result of a stress fracture or some other orthopaedic injury? Look at the list of common symptoms below to see if this might be the source of your discomfort.

Symptoms of Stress Fractures:

  • Pain that that increases overtime with continued use
  • Soreness/tenderness that can be pinpointed to a specific spot
  • Noticeable decrease in pain after periods of rest
  • Possible swelling of affected area


If you suspect that you might have a stress fracture, the best thing to do is stop activity involving the injured body part. You might also gain relief by employing RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation.)

By decreasing activity and allowing the tiny cracks to heal, you may be able to treat this injury at home. If pain persists, seeing an orthopaedic surgeon for proper diagnosis is important.

If you are diagnoses with a stress fracture, you may be advised to use a boot, brace or crutches. Depending on the severity, you may even need to be non-weight bearing for a period of time to allow your bone to heal. Use of anti-inflammatory medications may also help with swelling and discomfort.

Once you begin to experience a noticeable decrease in pain, it is important that you not rush back to full activity level. It is very easy to reverse the healing process if you push yourself too soon. Allowing your body plenty of time to heal is key to a full recovery and getting back to your normal routine, pain-free!

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