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Overuse injury of bone: Stress Fractures

Q: What is a stress fracture?

A: A stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone that develops because of repeated or prolonged forces against the bone. Read more about Stress Fractures on our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise® Health Encyclopedia website.

If you experience swelling or pain whenever you put weight on your feet or legs and any time you stand, you may have a stress fracture.

In terms of runners' injuries of the foot and ankle, Dr. Hecht explains that the most common bones to undergo stress fractures are the metatarsal and tarsal bones. Toes (phalanges) rarely show stress fractures.

Q: What can cause a stress fracture?

A: Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Have I increased the mileage I run recently?
  • Have I been running at greater intensity recently?
  • Have I been running for longer periods of time than usual?

Q: How do I know this is a stress fracture?

A: X-rays will show evidence of a stress fracture about three to four weeks after your symptoms begin.

Q: What should I do if I experience a stress fracture?

A: Seek medical attention. Be sure to rest. And when you return to your regular activities, start slowly.

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