Why You Shouldn't Ignore a Stress Fracture

Stress fractures may not be as serious or painful as other broken bones, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Left untreated, the tiny cracks can lead to potentially serious complications that interfere with your everyday life. And all fractures require expert care for proper healing.

Our team of experts at Northland Orthopedics & Sports Medicine combine a breadth of experience and effective, cutting-edge technology to treat fractures of all severity levels. Read on to learn more about stress fractures and why you don’t want to “grin and bear” your symptoms.

Stress fractures 101

Stress fractures usually derive from repetitive force on a bone, related to overuse. They can also stem from a condition that weakens your bones, such as osteoporosis. Most common in the lower legs and feet, which bear a lot of weight, you may be more prone to a stress fracture if you engage in track and field activities or carry a heavy pack for long distances—such as while trekking or mountain climbing. 

Starting a new activity and doing too much too soon or overexercising in general can also cause the tiny breaks. Once you have one, pain and tenderness that worsen with activity are the most common symptoms.

Stress fracture complications

Because stress fractures aren’t as sudden or obvious as other broken bones, you might wonder if you have a mild injury that will go away on its own. On the contrary, ignoring your stress fracture can lead to a range of complications, such as:

Stress fracture treatment

Once your provider has diagnosed you with a stress fracture, which typically involves a comprehensive exam and possibly an imaging test like an X-ray, they’ll recommend your ideal treatment plan. 

You’ll need to rest the affected limb as directed, until your doctor clears you to bear normal weight on the bone again. This may take weeks, months, or longer, depending on the severity of your injury and how long you’ve waited to seek care. 

Your care plan may also include ice or over-the-counter medication for reduced pain and swelling and elevating the limb for particular amounts of time each day. 

If you’ve waited to seek diagnosis and treatment for your stress fracture, you may need more intense treatments to address any complications. Regardless, your provider can discuss ways to lower your risk for additional stress fractures in the future. Meanwhile, sticking to approved exercises that don’t place weight on the injured area will allow you to stay active as you heal.

If you suspect you may have a stress fracture, call Northland Orthopedic & Sports Medicine or request an appointment on our website.

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