Stress fracture

From ArticleWorld

A stress fracture is a tiny nondisplaced area of bony disruption or fracture that is common in runners and other athletes that spend excessive amounts of time putting pressure on the weight-bearing bones. The most common bones to sustain a stress fracture are the tibia, the fibula and the metatarsal bones of the foot. The primary symptom is that of localized pain that is worse with weight bearing.


A stress fracture is a result of a weight-bearing bone being unable to keep up with the constant wear and repair necessary during excessive running or other sports activity. Whenever the bone tissue cannot rebuild tiny areas of bony injury, a weakened area and stress fracture can occur. Many sports specialists feel that muscle fatigue that doesn’t allow the muscles to help cushion the constant pounding on the ground from running can also play a role in developing stress fractures. Weak muscles allow all forces to be transferred to the bone.


Anyone who is involved in a sport that impacts the force on the bone and who develops localized bony pain in the lower leg or foot should be evaluated for stress fracture. In some sports, the incidence of this kind of injury can be as high as 30%.

X-ray of the bone often shows no evidence of fracture. Other medical tests, such as a CT scan, an MRI scan or a bone scan can more effectively see the site of fracture.


Stress fractures do not heal if one continues athletic activity and ignores the pain. With rest alone, it takes between four and twelve weeks for full recovery. Strengthening the leg muscles in the meantime under conditions that do not stress the bone can improve the rehabilitation process. Bracing or casting the lower leg will take further stress off the bone and promote faster healing.

If quicker healing is desired, a bone stimulator can be used. This is an electromagnetic device that sends electrical signals to the bone that, in turn, speeds healing.

Most athletic trainers recommend a gradual return to function following healing with no more than a 10% increase in activity per week. This not only allows for a gradual rehabilitation but, by slowly putting increased pressure on the bone, the bone will become more dense and will adapt to the increase in forces placed upon it.