Stress fractures can present with many different types of pain. Most commonly the pain occurs when you are walking. After a long day on your feet, you may feel a burning when you sit down as well. They usually come from what seems out of nowhere and do not always occur from an injury you remember.
What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is similar to a bone bruise. It is a small, hairline fracture of your bone that causes the bone to become swollen and painful. Although it is not a huge bone break that is moved out of place, it still take 6-8 weeks for that bone to heal. During that time you will need to be in a surgical shoe or CAM walker. These are footwear with a hard bottom that limits the motion in your bones, giving them time to heal.
What causes a stress fracture?
Most commonly, a stress fracture is caused by a constant, pressure to the foot. Stress fractures are very common in distance runners, who are putting extreme impact on their feet for long periods of time. They can happen in anyone, though. If you have had any increase in activity level that your body is not used to, you can develop a stress fracture. They can also happen when you have weakened bone. This is called, osteoporosis. Weakened bone can be part of a normal aging process. It can also happen in a younger population when people are not getting enough nutrients. Frequently when a patient has a stress fracture we will check for Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is necessary for building strong bones. You can increase your Vitamin D levels just by being in the sunlight! Vitamin D can also be found in fatty fish, milk, through supplements and many other food sources.
Stress fractures can be diagnosed on x-ray. These fractures can take 10-14 days for the bone changes to appear on x-ray. Just because we can’t see the fracture on an x-ray does not mean you don’t have one. In some cases the diagnosis needs to be confirmed with advanced imaging such as an MRI or bone scan.