When a fracture occurs due to the overuse of a particular bone, that condition is known as a stress fracture. It is slightly different from the fractures that occur due to traumatic injuries like automobile accidents, contact sports injuries, and falling from a height. Fractures occurring due to trauma are more serious and they may result in dislocation of the fractured bone. Such fractures require surgical fixation and may employ the use of Orthopedic implants.
In the case of a stress fracture, dislocation of the fractured bone is not seen, hence, surgery is not often required for the treatment.
Stress Fracture - An Overview
Also known as a hairline fracture, a stress fracture can be defined as the condition where a small crack occurs in the bone. Some of the most commonly involved bones in the case of stress fractures include tibia and fibula, navicular bones, and metatarsals. While on the other hand, the femur and pelvis are the least common locations where stress fractures are seen.
Causes of Stress Fracture
A stress fracture is a condition that develops due to the overuse of a bone. For example, athletes perform several high-impact activities regularly while playing or practicing. So, their movement is similar and that involves some specific bones or joints. Over a period of time, a crack in the bone may develop resulting in stress fracture. Foot and ankle are the most prone locations for fractures occurring due to stress.
Another cause of stress fracture could be bone-related conditions like osteoporosis. In these situations, the speed of bone deterioration increases and this makes bones weak. Thus, such people can get stress fractures even while performing normal activities like walking. The reason behind this is that conditions like osteoporosis reduce bone density while making them more prone to getting fractured.
Besides all this, it is also seen that wearing poorly-sized footwear or high heels may also result in stress fracture.
Symptoms of Stress Fracture
Below-mentioned is some of the most common symptoms seen in the case of stress fractures:
- Persistent pain that becomes intense while using the affected site
- Swelling may also be seen
- Localized tenderness
Diagnosis of Stress Fracture
Several tests may be performed for the diagnosis of a stress fracture:
In identifying any fracture including a stress fracture, physical examination plays an important role, that is why this is the first thing a doctor does while diagnosing a fracture. During the physical examination, a doctor asks about the medical history of the patient, the cause of the fracture, areas where the patient is experiencing pain, and also their daily routine. All these questions help orthopedists decide the best line of treatment.
Radiological examination is the second step of diagnosis and for that, the primary indication is x-raying examination. This is done to visualize the location and seriousness of the fracture. In certain cases, MRI may also be suggested to get a closer look at the site of fracture.
Treatment of Stress Fracture
The first thing that is required to be done is to stop all the physical activities involving the fractured bone/joint. Most stress fractures heal by taking proper rest as suggested by the doctor. In certain cases, orthopedic shoes may be indicated (in case of foot and ankle fractures). While on the other hand, if proper guidance and treatment are not taken, the condition could become worse. To treat such cases surgery may be required.
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