What is foot stress fracture?

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Stress fracture of the foot: Overview

A stress fracture is a thin, or hairline, crack in a bone. A stress fracture usually happens from repeated pressure on the foot, like running or jumping. You may need 6 to 8 weeks to heal.

Treatment depends on where the fracture is and how much pain it causes. Do not return to your usual exercise until your doctor says you can. Continued use of an injured foot can make the break worse or keep it from healing.

You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.

How can you care for a stress fracture of the foot?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about how much weight you can put on your foot and when you can go back to your usual activities. Use crutches as instructed.
  • If your doctor suggests it, put ice or a cold pack on your foot for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Keep your splint or cast dry.
  • Prop up your foot on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down for the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Your doctor may have recommended a cast, a splint, or a special shoe or shoe insert. Follow the instructions your doctor gave you for using any of these treatments.

Stress fracture of the foot

Skeletal view of foot, with detail of stress fracture in metatarsal bone

A stress fracture is a hairline crack in a bone. In some cases, the crack may be so small that it is not visible on an X-ray. A stress fracture can occur in any bone that repeatedly bears weight.

Stress fracture of the foot: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have increased or severe pain.
  • Your foot is cool or pale or changes color.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your foot and toes.
  • Your cast or splint feels too tight.
  • You cannot move your toes.
  • You have a lot of swelling below your cast.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Pain does not get better day by day.
  • The skin under your cast or splint burns or stings.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.