Stress Fracture

Overview

What Is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture happens when your muscles get worn out from too much activity and too little rest. As a result, the body cannot keep up, and the energy transfers to your bones, causing a hairline crack, or fracture.

At Aurora Health Care, our expert care helps you get back in the game – and back to life as usual – as quickly as possible. We care for a large number of active people and athletes, which only increases our ability to accurately detect the subtle signs of a stress fracture.

Our sports medicine team then personalizes treatments to meet your unique needs. In fact, we offer a complete range of treatments to our patients, including orthotics (special shoe inserts), physical therapy and surgery.

The Aurora Difference

Stress Fracture Care from Sports Medicine Experts

Few things are as disruptive to an active lifestyle as an injury like a stress fracture. At Aurora Health Care, we deliver exceptional sports medicine care that helps you get back to the activities you love.

Highlights of our program include:

  • An understanding of your needs: Many of our orthopedic and sports medicine doctors are current or former athletes. They understand how frustrating a stress fracture can be. That’s why they take time to learn about the activities you enjoy and the events that led up to the injury – not just your symptoms. This information helps them tailor treatments to meet your unique needs. Meet our sports health team.
  • Care that fits your busy schedule: At Aurora, we make it easy to get a quick and accurate diagnosis. Some of our doctors even take same-day appointments. What’s more, free injury evaluations with an Aurora physical therapist or licensed athletic trainer are often available within one business day. Get sports health care.
  • Prevention: It’s natural to be anxious about returning to your favorite activities after a stress fracture. That’s one of the reasons we offer sports performance programs that lower your risk for re-injury and give you peace of mind. Our programs include running form assessments. Learn more about all our sports health services and treatments.

Symptoms & Causes

Symptoms & Causes of a Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a common running injury. However, any activity where your feet repeatedly pound against hard surfaces – including basketball and gymnastics – can cause a stress fracture.

Each person experiences stress fracture symptoms a little differently, but the symptoms almost always include pain. However, you might not feel the pain right away. If you are a runner, the symptoms you experience and how you experience them depends on your specific running routine – how fast you run, how often and how long.

Other symptoms include:

  • Bruising
  • An area of your leg, ankle, foot, arm, neck or lower back that is tender to the touch
  • Swelling

Diagnosis

Stress Fracture: Tests & Imaging

Our orthopedic and sports medicine experts can often diagnose a stress fracture based on your symptoms alone. But to rule out other conditions, we also perform a complete evaluation.

During an exam, we:

  • Listen carefully as you describe the symptoms you are experiencing and what led up to the injury
  • Gently press the affected area to rule out other conditions, like shin splints if the pain is along your lower leg bone
  • Order imaging tests, like an X-ray, when necessary. If you’ve been in pain for a long time, an X-ray can show us whether there are previous fractures you may not have been aware of.

Find out more about orthopedic diagnosis at Aurora.

Treatment

Treating a Stress Fracture

Your treatment may include sitting out from the activity that caused the fracture for six to eight weeks. The good news is that you may be able to participate in activities that do not cause pain. For example, if you need a break from running, you may be able to swim or ride a bike.

Additional treatments can help you stay comfortable as you heal and make a smooth transition back to your favorite sport or activity. These treatments may include:

  • Braces or casts: Sometimes, a stress fracture needs extra support as it heals. You may receive a ready-to-use brace or a specially made cast to hold the affected area in a fixed position. Our orthopedic and sports medicine experts will explain which option best meets your needs.
  • Physical therapy: We help you improve muscle strength and flexibility to lower your risk of re-injury. Find out more about orthopedic physical therapy.
  • Running assessment: Our running experts examine the way your body moves while you are running on a treadmill. We then pinpoint and correct motions that are putting unnecessary stress on your bones. Learn more about our performance running assessment.
  • Foot orthotics: These special inserts worn in your shoes help absorb the shock of your foot hitting the ground and protect you from future stress fractures. A custom foot orthotic can be made to fit the unique shape of your foot. Find out more about custom foot orthotics at Aurora.
  • Surgery: On rare occasions, surgery is necessary to repair bones that don’t heal on their own. Our orthopedic surgeons use the smallest necessary incision and best available surgical equipment, so you can get back to your favorite activities sooner. Find out more about minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

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