Stress fractures are overuse injuries where the muscles cannot support high-impact activities such as running, jumping, or climbing. It is characterized by a tiny fracture along bone surfaces and can be accompanied by swelling and tenderness in affected areas. They are commonly seen among athletes who participate in sports involving regular repetitious force on their body, as well as those returning to exercise after long periods of physical idleness. As athletes and regular physical activity participants push their bodies to the limit, they must be aware of how repeated force can cause small cracks in bones – stress fractures.
If stress fractures are left untreated, these injuries may progress into more severe forms with permanent damage or even complete fracture. To avoid long-term problems, signs must be recognized early for effective medical treatment as quickly as possible. A stress fracture can be extremely painful, making everyday tasks like walking or running a struggle. Symptoms may include tenderness in the affected area, pain and swelling when movement is attempted, and stiffness around the joint, resulting in decreased range of motion.
An X-ray can detect whether there has been any bone damage, but an MRI will provide more details regarding soft tissue inflammation associated with this type of overload injury. Fortunately, several treatments offer relief from the pain associated with these injuries while allowing for a successful healing process. Depending on the severity and location of the fracture, treatment may involve rest, crutches, or physical therapy. Additionally, orthotics may be prescribed when returning to certain activities following recovery.