When a solid structure is supporting significant weight or pressure, even the smallest compromise in its integrity could potentially spell disaster. Splits in a dyke, cracks in a support beam, or minor crumbling in a foundation could bring down the whole structure if allowed to progress. Something similar can happen to your skeleton. Stress fractures start small, but will only get worse if not managed correctly.
Small Bone Breaks
Stress fractures are small cracks in your hard bone tissue. These cracks do not go all the way through the bone, but like splits in support beams or foundations, they can seriously weaken your skeleton. They develop because of overuse: repeated hard pressure or impacts strain the bone until it splits slightly. Any bone can develop a stress fracture, though weight-bearing ones, like those in your feet and ankles, are more prone to them.
In your lower limbs, your heels, a few of the tarsals, your lower legs, and your metatarsals are the most common places people develop cracks. The pain tends to worsen over time; the more you put weight on the affected foot, the more the bone is stressed and the crack gets worse. Your foot may feel tender to the touch over the split. Sometimes there is swelling as well, and occasionally bruising depending on how serious the condition is.
Stressing the Feet
Many issues can lead to stress fractures. Poor conditioning, especially if you play sports, is a major factor. If your muscles and supportive tissues are not strong enough to handle the strain of your activity, they won’t be able to efficiently absorb shock. Insufficient or faulty footwear is another problem; it doesn’t support your feet and ankles correctly, adding to the strain on your skeletal structure. Incorrect biomechanics create a similar issue. For anyone with naturally weak bones, or who have a preexisting condition like osteoporosis, cracks are an even more likely.
No matter how the problem originated, though, you need to have your feet properly cared for right away. Even small splits in your bones weaken your whole foot. Continuing to be active with a compromised skeletal structure significantly increases your odds of developing a complete break.
Sealing the Cracks
You will need to have your affected foot examined thoroughly to identify any type of stress fractures. Our podiatrists will carefully evaluate your lower limbs. The well qualified doctors at Country Foot Care may use a variety of diagnostic images and other tests to rule out other potential diagnoses. Then we can begin a treatment plan to restore your foot to health.
You will need to rest your foot so the stress fracture can heal. This will mean scaling back your activities for a time, or at least avoiding high-impact exercises. Depending on the severity of the crack, or your level of discomfort, the foot may be immobilized in a boot or a cast as well. Most likely you will need to change your footwear to a model with more support and protection. If you have a preexisting biomechanical issue that is contributing, you may need custom orthotics to help correct it. Once your bones have recovered enough to handle weight again, you’ll need to properly condition your feet to handle the strain of your activities.
Stress fractures significantly weaken your lower limbs and put you at risk for a complete break with a long recovery time. Rather than running that risk, take the time to heal from any cracks in your bones. If you are suffering from a stress fracture or think you may have one, contact Country Foot Care to make an appointment to be properly evaluated and diagnosed. Appointments can be made by calling either of our offices or, for those who would like to request an appointment online, simply click on the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT button at the top of this page.