What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a tiny crack or fracture in a bone. Stress fractures are overuse injuries and results from fatigue of surrounding muscles causing failure in the bone. The fatigued muscles are unable to absorb shock and forces and this load is then transferred to the bone leading to failure within the bone, and a tiny crack or fracture.

It is estimated 95% of all stress fractures in athletes occur in the lower legs and feet. In the foot, the most common sites are the metatarsals (especially 2nd and 3rd); whilst in the lower leg it is in the lower third of the tibia and fibula.

Do you suffer from a lower leg or foot stress fracture?

Signs & symptoms of a lower leg or foot stress fracture

The following signs or symptoms may indicate a stress fracture in the foot or lower leg:

  • Pain present in the foot or lower leg that intensifies during activity but relieved with rest.
  • Pain is usually gradual in onset and progresses to more focal and intense pain with the onset of swelling.
  • Swelling present over the top of the foot or in the lower third of the leg.
  • Tenderness at the fracture site.
lower leg or foot stress fracture treatment Camberwell

Causes of a lower leg or foot stress fracture

Stress fractures are caused by overload and overuse, so athletes involved in sports with repetitive stresses like running and jumping are often more prone. Stress fractures are most common in the feet (especially the metatarsals) because there are many small fragile bones within the feet and the feet are responsible for absorbing large forces when walking or running.

Risk factors that can cause lower leg or foot stress fractures include:

  • Increase in training load, frequency or duration
  • Weakness of lower leg muscles or chronic shin splints
  • Running on uneven or hard surfaces
  • Diet deficiences or disease causing a decrease in bone strength
  • Poor footwear
  • Poor foot or lower leg mechanics

Poor foot mechanics can be a major factor in causing lower leg or foot stress fractures. Unstable flat feet that roll in too much can place more stress and rotation on some of the bones in the feet (especially long fragile bones like metatarsals) which then may lead to bone failure.

Rigid high arched feet are poor at shock absorption and this can send an increase in forces directly to foot and lower leg bones, which may eventually lead to bone failure.

Stress fracture diagnosis

Lower leg or foot stress fractures can often be diagnosed or suspected clinically by our Melbourne sports podiatrists, who are experts in identifying sports injuries of the foot and ankle. If one our podiatrists suspect a stress fracture they will usually referral for an x-ray, bone scan or MRI to confirm diagnosis.

Podiatry treatment for a lower leg or foot stress fracture

The sports podiatrists at Melbourne Podiatrists & Orthotics are experts in treatment of lower leg or foot stress fractures for both athletes and non-athletes. Initial treatment is aimed at removing forces off the fracture site and involves rest to allow for bone healing. Following healing our sports podiatrists can help you with rehabilitation and exercises to help get you back on your feet. Secondary treatment involves identifying and treating the cause of the stress fracture to help prevent a reoccurrence.

Treatment options at our Melbourne podiatry clinic include:

Our sports podiatrists can use computer gait analysis to help identify biomechanical causes of stress fractures. They can then prescribe orthotics to help treat lower leg and foot stress fractures. Orthotics can help in a number of ways:

Orthotics with specific padding can help safely offload and stabilise forefoot fractures to allow for bone healing, often without the need for CAM Walkers and crutches.

Orthotics also improve foot function by supporting the arch and reducing excess foot pronation (inward rolling of the feet). This helps address biomechancial causes of stress fractures by making foot bones more stable during loading and propulsion. A more stable foot will also reduce rotation and forces on the lower leg muscles and bones.

A sports podiatrist is the best health professional to identify and treat underlying biomechanical causes of foot stress fractures.

Call us Melbourne Podiatrist

Do you suffer from a lower leg or foot stress fracture?

At our Melbourne foot clinic our sports podiatrists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the foot, ankle and lower leg. This includes lower leg or foot stress fractures.

So if you are suffering from a painful foot or think you may have a stress fracture book an appointment with one of our friendly sports podiatrists today!