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What Is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture is a tiny, hairline crack in a bone. Unlike an acute fracture, which occurs suddenly with trauma, such as a fall or direct blow, a stress fracture develops slowly due to repetitive force. This can result from overuse, such as jumping repeatedly or running long distances, or even from daily use if a bone has become weakened due to osteoporosis.

While anyone can experience a stress fracture, this injury is particularly common among athletes who participate in sports that exert pressure on weight-bearing bones. Some examples include basketball, soccer, track and dancing, which continually stress the bones in the lower legs and feet. The risk of sustaining a stress fracture often increases with a change in training, such as playing on a different surface, wearing new shoes or working out longer or more frequently than usual.

How do you know if you have a stress fracture?

While an acute bone fracture usually causes sudden, intense pain, the signs of a stress fracture are more subtle. At first, the injury may be imperceptible. Then, as the crack grows larger, it may produce vague pain that gradually intensifies over time.

If left untreated, a stress fracture will continue to worsen, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if they occur. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • A deep ache in a leg, foot, arm or hand
  • Dull pain that comes on suddenly during activity, then goes away with rest
  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Pain that progressively worsens despite rest
  • Pain that intensifies at night
  • Pain that develops after an increase in training

How is a stress fracture treated?

Most stress fractures can be treated without surgery. With that said, the treatment process can be demanding, often involving several weeks of physical therapy and bracing. To help ensure a fast and full recovery, as well as prevent future injuries, it is important to identify the reason the stress fracture developed in the first place, and then modify the activity or training program as necessary to avoid it.

At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, we offer a full range of stress fracture treatment options, including onsite physical therapy. Our board-certified and double-board-certified orthopedic specialists can evaluate your injury and recommend an individualized treatment plan to help you get back to your active lifestyle as quickly and safely as possible.

To request an appointment at any of our orthopedic clinics throughout the Houston, Texas, area, contact us today.