How is a stress fracture treated?
If you think you have a stress fracture, see your doctor and follow the treatment guidelines he or she gives you. Do not ignore the pain, because it can cause serious problems.
These are some of the treatments your doctor may recommend:
- Stop the activity that is causing pain. Stress fractures happen because of repetitive stress, so it is important to avoid the activity that led to the fracture.
- Apply an ice pack to the injured area.
- Rest for 1 to 6 weeks. Once you can perform low-impact activities for extended periods without pain, you can start doing high-impact exercises.
- When you are lying down, raise your foot above the level of your heart.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to help relieve pain and swelling.
- Use protective footwear to reduce stress on your foot or leg. This may be a stiff-soled shoe, a wooden-soled sandal, or a removable short-leg fracture brace shoe.
- Your doctor may put a cast or fracture boot on your foot to keep the bones in a fixed position and to remove the stress on the leg.
- Use of crutches to keep weight off your foot or leg until the bone heals may be required.
- Some stress fractures need surgery to heal properly. This is called internal fixation. Pins, screws, and/or plates can be used to hold the bones of the foot and ankle together during the healing process.
- If you have diabetes, see your doctor right away if you have pain or other problems with your legs, ankles, or toes.
During the early phase of healing, the doctor may recommend that you change your schedule so that you rest one day, do an activity the next day, then rest the next day. You should slowly increase how often and how vigorously you exercise. If the activity that caused the stress fracture is resumed too quickly, you may develop a larger stress fracture that is harder to heal. If you re-injure the bone, it can lead to long-term problems, and the stress fracture might never heal properly.
Change the types of aerobic exercise you do to help avoid repeated stress on the foot and ankle. Switch to aerobic activities that place less stress on your foot and leg so that the stress fracture can heal properly. Swimming and cycling are good alternative activities.
How long does it take to recover from a stress fracture?
As long as you can feel pain, the bone is still fragile in that area, and can break again in the same place. It takes 6-8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal, so it is important to stop the activities that caused the stress fracture. Always ask your doctor before you do any physical activity on the injured foot or ankle.