A stress fracture is a hairline crack that can occur in bones from repeated or prolonged use. The most common sites for stress fracture are the foot bones (metatarsals), shin bone (tibia), outer lower leg bone (fibula), thigh bone (femur), hip (neck of femur), and back bones (vertebrae).
Stress fractures are overuse injuries. The majority of leg injuries occur during activities such as running, jumping, or dancing.
A stress fracture causes pain when the injured part of the body is used. You may also have swelling and bruising.
Your healthcare provider will examine you and may order an X-ray. However, X-rays do not always show a stress fracture. Your provider may order a more specialized test called a bone scan or an MRI.
The most important treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Other ways to treat stress fractures may include:
In some cases, surgery is needed.
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your fracture heals, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
After a stress fracture you may do activities that do not cause pain. You should vary your activity for one week at a time. For instance, if you have a stress fracture from running, you should either rest or swim for a week, then attempt to run short distances. If there is no pain, you can gradually increase your activity level.
Stress fractures are caused by overuse. The best way to avoid getting a stress fracture is to listen to your body and not force yourself to do activities while you are in pain.