Is a Stress Fracture Serious?

Is a Stress Fracture Serious?

Broken bones come in several varieties. In some cases, a bone can completely shatter or break in two, piercing the surface of your skin. Because of this, it’s easy to brush off a stress fracture as nothing serious. After all, it’s only a thin, hairline crack, right?

Dr. Edward R. Dupay, Jr. treats all kinds of broken bones, including stress fractures, at Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers. He offered these insights into why these types of breaks shouldn’t get ignored.

The problem with stress fractures

There’s a reason why fine cracks in your bones earned the name “stress fractures.” Unlike broken bones that occur from a trauma — like falling or a car accident — stress fractures usually develop from overuse or bone conditions like osteoporosis.

Overuse

These types of stress fractures occur from some form of repetitive force or stress on the bone. For example, running long distances or persistent jumping. As a result, Dr. Dupay usually sees stress fractures from overuse in the lower legs and feet. 

While anyone can experience stress fractures from overuse, they’re most common in athletes and military recruits carrying heavy packs over long distances.

Osteoporosis

You can also experience stress fractures during regular activity when you have weakened bones from osteoporosis. This condition causes your bones to become brittle and weak. These changes leave them susceptible to fractures, even from the most mild stressors, like coughing or sneezing.

Osteoporosis can impact anyone, but older, post-menopausal women are most vulnerable, especially of white and Asian descent. 

Why you shouldn’t ignore stress fractures

Stress fractures often cause little, if any, pain at the beginning. Instead, they typically start with some tenderness that fades when you rest. However, these symptoms usually worsen with time. Plus, since they are due to overuse or osteoporosis, they can become chronic problems and you could develop more stress fractures.

While you probably won’t need surgery to recover from a stress fracture, you do need to take the right steps to ensure you completely heal properly. And, while they may not seem serious, healing from stress fractures takes several months or longer. And, ignoring them can only make it worse. 

How to treat a stress fracture

If you have a stress fracture, Dr. Dupay can create a personalized treatment strategy that has you back on your feet, pain-free. 

First, Dr. Dupay diagnoses the extent of your condition by reviewing your medical history, performing a physical exam, and capturing images of your fractures through X-rays, bone scans, or MRIs.

After reaching a diagnosis, Dr. Dupay can outline the best strategy to help your bones heal. For overuse injuries, this often includes resting, avoiding repetitive activity, and applying ice to the injury site. If your stress fracture is in a weight-bearing bone, you often have to reduce putting weight on the area while you recover.

A stress fracture from osteoporosis often requires similar treatments. However, Dr. Dupay can make additional recommendations on how to protect your bones moving forward, including medications, supplements, or vitamins.

Finally, once you start to heal, a physical therapy program can help you safely regain mobility and avoid reinjury in the future.

Worried you have a stress fracture? Don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Contact Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Florida by calling 239-768-2272 today.

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