March 6, 2017

What is a stress fracture?

Hand, Wrist and Elbow | Knee | Sports Injury

A stress fracture is an overuse injury and is a relatively common injury in sports.


Most stress fractures happen in the weight bearing bones of the lower leg and foot: tibia, femur and metatarsals. They can occur when muscles become tired and are unable to absorb added shock. Overtime, the tired muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack. They can also occur because of improper bone nutrition, such as lack of Calcium and Vitamin D.


Increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly often causes these fractures. They also can be caused by improper equipment and increased physical demand. Not getting enough rest between exercise sessions and overuse syndrome is also a cause.

Stress fracture symptoms

  • Pain with activity that lessens with rest

Physician examination

Your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, have you describe your symptoms and how the injury occurred, and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray, MRI or bone scan may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other problems.

OrthoIndy is proud to be the official orthopedic provider of the Indiana Pacers. Make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.


Rest from the activity that caused the fracture is the most important treatment. Most injuries will heal in six to eight weeks. However, if the activity that caused the stress fracture is resumed too soon, larger fractures can develop, which can lead to chronic problems where the injury might never heal properly. Shoe inserts or braces may also help during the healing process.

Surgery may be necessary if the bone has become so weak that there is a chance a displaced fracture (bones breaking into separate pieces) could occur.


Most injuries can be avoided by following these tips:

  • Set incremental goals and gradually build up resistance
  • Alternate activities instead of performing the same exercise everyday
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Use proper equipment
  • If pain or swelling occurs, immediately stop the activity and rest for a few days

Learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.
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Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan is the current Marketing Team Lead at OrthoIndy. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and communications studies minor and has been with OrthoIndy since June 2012.

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