Pain can be annoying and it can be downright disabling at times, regardless of where in the body it is spotted.
It is of the utmost importance that you inform yourself properly before doing anything and that you get a specialist’s diagnosis before you even try to treat your pain.
Sometimes, the causes of a pain can be very easily found and they can be fairly easily treated, depending on how severe the pain is and where it is situated (and this is why it is important that you present yourself to the doctor’s office as soon as you notice the pain).
Foot pain is among the most commonly encountered types of pain out there and when it becomes prolonged, it will be a sign that something went wrong with the mechanism that makes us walk.
Since the foot contains 24 bones, multiple muscles and a tissue running from the bottom of the foot to the upper part (plantar fascia), there can be many causes that lead to feeling pain in this area.
It is important that you spot precisely the area where you are feeling the pain, so that you can determine the actual cause as well.
Stress Fractures: The Basics
Put in simple terms, stress fractures are cracks in the bones that occur, most frequently, due to overuse.
When a person makes repetitive movements and the muscles of the foot are overused, they become tired and they transfer the task of absorbing the impact of the movement on the bones – which can eventually cause small fractures in them.
The second and third metatarsals, the heel, the outer lower leg bone and the navicular (on the top of the midfoot) are among the most commonly encountered areas where you can develop stress fractures.
The most commonly encountered symptoms of stress fractures of the bones include pain that increases gradually, pain that becomes more intense when the feet have to bear weight on them, pain that lowers with resting, swelling on the top of the foot (or on the outside part of the ankle), tenderness in the area of the fracture, bruising, pain that occurs during normal activities, and so on.
Causes that Lead to Stress Fractures
Most of the times, athletes performing tennis, dancing, running, gymnastics or basketball are more prone to develop this kind of overuse injury precisely due to the repetitive and powerful nature of their sport’s movement.
Also, anyone who increases their exercise routine by frequency, duration or intensity very suddenly may suffer stress fractures of the bones.
However, aside from being a professional athlete, there are several other ways in which stress fractures can develop.
For instance, if the bones have been affected by osteoporosis or by any other disease that affects the bone itself, even a normal day-to-day activity can lead to a fracture of the foot bones.
There is also a series of stress factors that can influence whether a person will develop stress fractures or not:
1- Straining yourself much beyond your limits. This is a mistake many athletes and people practicing various sports make, especially after a longer period when they haven’t worked out.
Gradually increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of your workouts is very important if you want to maintain your body’s full integrity and if you want to avoid any kind of injuries (stress fractures of the foot included).
2- Using the wrong type of equipment. When you are recommended with using a special kind of equipment, do it, because these recommendations do not come out of the blue.
For instance, if you are a runner, a pair of actual running shoes can absorb some of the shock and pressure that are put on your feet, so that bone fracture doesn’t occur.
3- Wrongfully exercising. You really need to exercise correctly if you want to make sure you will not develop any kind of injury.
The technique does matter a lot! Also, if you have any other kind of injury (even a blister), you should not exercise because it will most likely make you change the mechanics of the exercise itself, which will consequently put pressure on your feet the wrong way.
4- Insufficiency of the bone. As mentioned before, there are certain diseases out there that can affect the actual integrity of the bone and its power to sustain routine movements (osteoporosis is a good example).
Therefore, almost anyone suffering from such a disease can suffer a stress fracture of the foot as well. Also, some studies show that female athletes are usually more prone to have irregular menstrual cycles, osteoporosis and stress fractures of the bones.
Treatment for Stress Fracture of the Foot
Fortunately, there are multiple ways in which the stress fracture of the foot can be treated. There are both non-surgical methods and surgical methods as well.
When the case is mild and not extremely severe, the doctor will recommend resting from the activity that caused the initial fracture.
You can switch to other activities that don’t place strain on the feet as much, for example. Also, the doctor will recommend you with protective footwear, as this kind of shoes can be extremely helpful in sustaining your feet in a proper way.
Furthermore, the doctor may also recommend a cast to keep the foot in place so that further injury doesn’t occur.
Surgical treatment can be applied as well and, in most of the cases, it involves supporting the broken bones with some sort of fastener.
Pins, screws or plates are sometimes introduced to keep the bone in place during the healing process, which comes under the name of “internal fixation”.
Also, it is important that you don’t strain the foot too much after healing as well. Cross training and alternating the days in which you have activity with days of rest are among the most recommended things to do.
Furthermore, pay attention to your diet (full in Calcium and vitamin D) and make sure that you alternate the exercises you do and that you don’t start with the most intense version as well.