What’s a foot stress fracture?

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Foot stress fractures are small cracks caused by overuse, particularly in sports or high-impact activities. Frequency, duration, and intensity are key factors in their development. Adequate rest, nutrition, and equipment can help prevent them. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and swelling.

A foot stress fracture is a small crack that appears on a bone from overuse. When the muscles in the foot get tired, they don’t provide the necessary support to the bones, thus allowing for damage. This type of injury is more common among people who frequently play sports or engage in other high-impact, repetitive activities. Individuals with diseases that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis, are also at a higher risk of developing a stress fracture.

Stress fracture injuries of the foot are mostly due to overuse. When the foot strikes the ground repeatedly, it not only strains the muscles, but puts stress on the foot from the constant impact. It can happen on any surface, but is particularly common in sports that are played on hard surfaces. Some of the sports with the highest risk of foot stress fracture injuries are basketball, tennis, gymnastics, running, and volleyball. Dancers are also at the highest risk for the injury.

There are three primary factors in the development of a foot stress fracture: frequency, duration, and intensity. The more frequently a physical activity is performed, the greater the chance of injury. Engaging in an activity for an extended period can lead to muscle overuse, which weakens the body’s defenses against injury to the bones in the foot. A high-intensity impact can overload the foot so that it cannot defend itself from injury.

The best way to avoid an exercise-related foot stress fracture is to be educated about the limits of the body and to work within those boundaries. It is important to be in proper condition for the activity at hand and not to attempt more than the body can handle. Activities should take place in a safe environment suitable for any physical effort planned. It is also advisable to have adequate equipment and clothing, and in particular the appropriate shoes, for any planned activity.

Eating well-balanced meals and getting adequate rest can also help an individual avoid stress fracture of the foot, whether from strenuous physical activity or bone disease. Foods with a high level of calcium are especially beneficial for building and strengthening bones. Women in particular should be careful in these areas as they tend to be more prone to stress fractures.

Common symptoms of a foot stress fracture include the gradual development of pain that goes away with rest but gets worse with any type of weight-bearing activity, and tenderness at the actual site of the fracture. There is also often swelling around the ankles and on the top of the foot. Some individuals may also have bruises, although this doesn’t always happen.

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