Recognizing the Signs of a Stress Fracture

If you love sports and play your sport frequently, you’re susceptible to stress fractures in your feet and lower legs. A stress fracture, sometimes called a hairline fracture, is a tiny fissure in a bone. 

Urgently Ortho in Scottsdale, Arizona, specializes in treating all types of orthopedic injuries, including stress fractures. Our team includes a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, a physician specializing in pain management, and a doctor trained in regenerative medicine. 

What are the signs of a stress fracture? 

You may have a number of symptoms from a stress fracture. 


You likely feel a dull ache where the fracture is located. The pain intensifies when you’re on your feet and lessens or goes away when you’re resting. Over half of stress fractures are in the lower leg/ankle. If the fracture has gone untreated for a while, you feel significant pain when you bear any weight on the foot. 


The site of the injury, whether it’s the foot, ankle, or leg, is likely swollen. 


Is your foot tender when you touch it, especially in one place? Your finger is probably resting on or near the cracked bone. 


Blood rushes to the injured site, so your foot or ankle may look purple or blue. 


Your foot may not feel as sturdy when you’re on it. You notice that you’re not able to operate at the top of your game. You’re probably favoring the injured foot by bearing less weight on it or walking on the outside or inside of your foot to avoid pain. 

How did I get a stress fracture?

Any sport in which your feet hit the ground repeatedly from running, jumping, and pivoting quickly, such as basketball, track and field, tennis, and gymnastics, can lead to stress fractures. 

These fractures are typically overuse injuries. Perhaps you’ve been in a three-day tennis tournament. Your muscles are overworked, and the stress transfers to the bone, leaving a small crack. 

You can also get a stress fracture from suddenly increasing the amount of time you play your sport after having been sedentary — for instance, returning to the court for rigorous play after you’ve been sick. It’s important to take time to ramp up your level of activity after being out of action for a while. Perhaps you’re running on worn-out shoes: Lack of the right equipment can lead to a stress fracture as well.   

Treating a stress fracture 

Your physician at Urgently Ortho reviews your medical history, physically examines the painful area, and conducts imaging tests to diagnose your condition. 

The first line of defense when you have a stress fracture is using the RICE method to help heal it: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Over-the-counter pain relievers also help reduce pain and inflammation. 

Your Urgently Ortho physician determines whether you need a cast to hold the bones in place during the healing process. Your doctor may prescribe a walking boot to reduce stress on the affected area, or you may need crutches if your physician wants you to avoid weight-bearing for a period of time. She may also recommend custom orthotics to provide extra support to the injured area and your entire foot. Untreated stress fractures may lead to the need for surgical repair, so it’s important to seek treatment promptly. 

Contact Urgently Ortho right away if you believe you have a stress fracture and for any orthopedic need.

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