Patient's Complete Guide to Stress Fractures

Overview of Stress Fractures

Fractures are partial or full cracks or breaks in a bone. Fractures are a medical condition that occurs mostly due to high force impact or stress. Weakened bones can also cause fractures. Stress fractures are the most common running injuries.
Stress fractures (Kashidgi ke Fractures/ کشیدگی کے فریکچر) are caused by overuse of the same bone. The muscles become fatigued and their shock-absorbing limit decreases. The shock is then transferred to the bone. Hence, a fracture occurs.
It is most common in athletes, especially runners. Stress fractures can also develop as a result of an injury or medical condition such as osteoporosis or osteopenia. Stress fractures are most likely to occur in the lower legs and foot (the weight-bearing bones).

Prevalence of Stress Fractures

Stress fractures affect 19.1 percent of women and 5.7 percent of men. In Pakistan, stress fractures are mostly caused due to osteoporosis or blunt trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress Fractures

Symptoms of stress fractures include:

  • Tenderness in the bone
  • Pain and swelling in the fracture site
  • Recurrent pain during strenuous or light activity
  • Pain while resting
  • Aching bones
  • Inability to walk without pain

Causes of Stress Fractures

A rapid increase in activity causes stress fractures. Stress fractures are caused by environmental and intrinsic factors.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors that cause stress fractures include:

  • Incorrect training or exercise technique
  • A rapid increase inactivity
  • Working on an unfamiliar surface
  • Poor equipment usage
  • High impact sports such as running, gymnastics, etc
  • Poor diet

Intrinsic Factors

Intrinsic factors (genetic, physiological) that cause stress fractures include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Other foot disorders such as tendonitis and blisters
  • Muscle weakness
  • Imbalance
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Irregular periods in females
  • Osteoporosis or other medical conditions
  • Previous stress fractures

Diagnosis

A physical examination is done and medical history is asked. Other imaging tests are performed including:

  • X-ray

    Stress fractures take time to show on an X-ray, but still, a break in the bone can be still via imaging.
  • Bone Scan

    A bone scan is done to see any break or crack in the bone. During the scan, the broken bones are brightly lit and can confirm the diagnosis.
  • MRI

    An MRI is the best way to diagnose stress fractures. It can even show low-stress injuries.

Treatment of Stress Fractures | When to Consult a Doctor

A stress fracture can be easily exhaled by reducing load-off on the fractured site and plenty of rest. Meanwhile, crutches can be used or a brace is worn to help the repair of the bone.
Surgery is rarely necessary but can be done to ensure speedy recovery and healing in athletes.
Stress fractures can cause undue stress on the body. It is necessary to get the fractured bone properly aligned and reset to ensure correct repairing and remodelling of the bone.

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