Condition spotlight

Stress fractures

Stress fractures occur when there is a small break in the bone. Unlike an acute fracture, these types of injuries develop overtime, especially when there is repeated stress to a localised area. They can occur in any bone in the body where there is overuse, but the feet and ankles can be more at risk due to the amount of force absorbed with weight bearing. Females have 1 ½ – 2 times more risk of developing a stress fracture compared to males.

 

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Frequently asked questions about Stress fractures

Where do fractures commonly occur in the feet?

Stress fractures can occur in any bone of the foot, however the most common sites affected are the metatarsals (long bones connecting the toes), navicular (midfoot bone), calcaneus (heel bone). They can also occur at the talus, tibia and fibula which are the bones that form part of the ankle.

Why are females more susceptible to developing stress fractures?

Females are more prone to stress fractures due to a number of factors including reduced bone mineral density, reduced muscle mass, and hormonal changes related to menstruation. Those who suffer from a combination of menstrual irregularity, decreased bone mineral density and low energy availability (from nutritional deficiencies or disordered eating), are significantly at risk of developing stress fractures. The interrelationship between these conditions is known as the Female Athlete Triad, and is relatively common in young females participating in sport.

What happens if you don’t treat a stress fracture?

Stress fractures can worsen without treatment, becoming more painful and debilitating. If left untreated, avascular necrosis (bone death) may occur, potentially leading to permanent changes to the bone and it’s joint surface. This can cause chronic pain, and increase the risk of developing arthritis in the area of injury. If sufficient healing fails to occur, surgery may be the only option for treatment.

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