stress fracture

How did I get a stress fracture and how can I help it heal?

We usually think of bone breaks as dramatic events resulting from accidents, but stress fractures may occur without you being aware that your bone has been impacted. Stress fractures are very slender cracks in a bone, also referred to as hairline fractures. 

Causes of Stress Fractures

Stress Fractures may be caused by repetitive actions, such as those that occur when athletes repeatedly put weight on their feet by jumping or running long distances. You needn’t be an athlete to suffer a stress fracture, however. Older people often suffer stress fractures, especially in their spine, due to having bones weakened by osteoporosis.

Many patients who come to Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine seeking pain relief believe their pain to be muscular in origin, and are surprised to discover that they have cracked a bone. Stress fractures can happen when you begin an exercise program too aggressively, instead of letting your weight-bearing bones become accustomed to increased activity. Stress fractures are also common in those who carry heavy packs for long periods. In patients with osteoporosis, stress fractures can appear to happen spontaneously.

Symptoms of Stress Fractures

Like other fractures, stress fractures cause sharp pain that may be unrelenting, continuing even when you try to sleep. There may also be swelling at the site, but no bruising unless the fracture broadens. If you have severe pain that is very localized, it is best to get it checked by a musculoskeletal specialist. Leaving a stress fracture untreated can easily lead to a worse fracture.

Risk factors for Stress Fractures

There are several factors that may increase your risk of getting a stress fracture, including:

  • Your gender: females, especially those with abnormal or absent menstrual periods or  who are postmenopausal are more likely to have osteoporosis leads to stress fractures
  • Engaging in high-impact sports (e.g. basketball, track and field, gymnastics, or dance)
  • Increasing your activity suddenly without preparation or training
  • Having naturally high arches or other foot problems and/or wearing improper footwear
  • Having weakened bones due to bone cancer, osteoporosis, or other medical conditions
  • Having a diet lacking in vitamin D or calcium and failing to take supplements 

It should be remembered that having had one stress fracture increases your risk of having another.

Diagnosis of Stress Fractures

If you come to one of our offices with pain and mobility issues, we will examine you and take a full medical history, from which we may intuit that you have a stress fracture. In order to be certain, however, our doctors will have to take X-rays, a bone scan, or an MRI to be sure. 

In many cases, your painful fracture may be so slim that it isn’t visible on an imaging test until days or weeks after the injury occurs. If we suspect you have a stress fracture, however, we will begin treating you as if you do to avoid worsening your injury or your discomfort.

How Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine May Treat Stress Fractures

The first thing to do if you suddenly begin experiencing musculoskeletal pain of unknown origin is to contact one of our physiatrists, all of whom are specialists in this field. He or she will give you instructions, depending on your age, general condition, and the severity of your injury, concerning how long you should rest and apply cold packs to the site in order to reduce swelling and pain. 

When you have a stress fracture, it is crucial that you rest the bone involved and don’t force it to bear full weight until it heals. If the affected bone is in the leg or foot, you may need to be fitted with a walking boot or to use a brace or crutches. If you have a hairline fracture in your spine, we may recommend a back brace. We are well-prepared to provide you with such assistive devices if you require them. 

Other measures we take to accelerate the healing process are the administration of:

  • Appropriate nutritional guidance and supplementation
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF)
  • Acupuncture and analgesics as needed for pain control
  • In some instances, interventional procedures to restore verterbral bone height and integrity

All of these methods reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and promote healing.

Contact Us for Effective, Nonsurgical Treatment of Stress Fractures

If you’re in pain and suspect you may have a stress fracture, call us for an appointment. We will provide you with competent, customized care and have you pain-free and at your optimal activity level in no time.