There are several locations of stress fracture in the foot, but there is only one type that atheletes can identify themselves. Metatarsal stress fractures are common and can often be self diagnosed. The pain is located on the shaft of the metatarsal behind the joint. It is usually felt on top, but may be deep inside.
The pain is usually reproduced by pressing on the metatarsal bone from the top. Bend the toe downward and note how the knuckle responds. The pain can be 1/2 inch to about 2 inches behind this joint. If the pain is anywhere else it is not a classic stress fracture.
After about 2 weeks a bump can usually be felt on the metatarsal in the location of pain.
Description of Pain in the Foot
Stress fracture can occur without knowing it. The pain can begin after a workout, during the first part of the next workout, or after sitting and sleeping.
The pain can also begin during a workout, sometimes in a very short period of time. The pain can become strong. This type of stress fracture is easier to identify because it is obvious, but it also usually means the damage is greater.
Many times there can be a low grade ache that does not really hurt much for as long as a week or two, only to become quickly more sore and obvious. This is usually the time that a stress syndrome becomes a true stress fracture.
The pain is described as an ache, sometimes piercing.
The pain can vary from the mildest form that only hurts with exercise, to intense pain that forces one to use crutches for walking.
Cause of Stress Fracture of the Foot
- Excessive intensity of workouts prior to the body adapting.
- A singular event that exceeds the current level of the skeletal and muscular fitness of the athlete.
- Poor bone density – Osteoporosis.
Treatment for Stress Fracture of the Foot
If the foot hurts too much to walk with a normal gait, an X-ray is strongly advised to rule out a complete fracture.
A cast is not usually needed for mild to moderate stress fractures unless the pain prevents normal activity. Fortunately this pain is also an indicator of the extent of the fracture. More pain means a more severe fracture. A doctor will know how to make the foot more comfortable.
Consequences of Running / Walking Through the Pain
Progression of the injury is probable. A mild stress fracture can become a complete fracture.
Many athletes who are training for a significant goal decide to take the risk and run with a mild stress fracture (moderate or severe fractures are too painful). Some make it through, but many aggravate the injury, requiring a lot more rest. Unfortunately, a mild stress fracture can become a serious true fracture within 2 – 3 strides.