Did you know that foot pain, tenderness, and swelling could actually indicate a stress fracture? While these symptoms are usually associated with a minor injury like a sprain, athletes, and people with osteoporosis should always see a doctor to rule out a fractured bone. Here at Island Foot Clinics in Kelowna, BC and Victoria, BC, we can diagnose your condition and offer you pain relief and treatment.

While fractures are most common in people who play sports that involve repetitive movements, they can also occur in patients with a bad diet, osteoporosis, and existing foot problems. When you come to the clinic and get diagnosed, your doctor can let you know how to best treat your symptoms and how to make sure you don’t suffer from the same issue in the future.

What Is a Stress Fracture? 

Usually, a bone gets broken due to a one-off event such as a fall, a car accident, or because the patient got hit by a large object. But small fractures can also occur due to repetitive stress or overuse. Such injuries don’t usually split the bone in two. Instead, they are small cracks that cause significant pain and swelling.

The typical person takes around six to eight weeks to heal from a hairline fracture, so it is comparable to an ankle sprain. However, the condition can be much more severe in patients who don’t take the appropriate measures of resting and icing their foot. If the overuse continues, they might suffer from their fracture for many years, and some may never fully recover. For this reason, diagnosis and medical intervention are key.

Why Do People Develop It?

A broken bone due to stress most commonly occurs in people wo do competitive sports such as gymnastics, tennis, or dance. To achieve a high level, they regularly put more strain on their body than it can handle. Military recruits who have to walk long distances with a heavy load are also susceptible to this injury. However, it can occur in almost anyone, and you might develop it after changing or expanding your exercise routine too quickly.

There are certain lifestyle factors that increase the risk of fracturing a bone. People who eat a diet that doesn’t include enough calcium and vitamin D are more likely to have trouble with their bones. Similarly, patients who already have problems with their feet, such as rigid and high arches or flat feet, are at risk.

The Role of Osteoporosis 

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones and causes them to break more easily. In its weaker form, low bone density is very common, with more than 50% of the population aged 50 and over suffering from it. As long as patients are aware and limit the stress they place on their joints, this isn’t a significant problem, but when osteoporosis progresses, it can be debilitating.

In patients with severe bone density loss, hairline fractures are much more common, and they can occur during regular daily activities like walking, lifting objects, or even coughing. If you come to the clinic with a fracture that is caused by osteoporosis, your doctor in Kelowna, BC or Victoria, BC will refer you to a bone density specialist. Fortunately, there are several types of medication that can strengthen the bones and limit the symptoms of this condition.

The Symptoms 

Unlike other types of injuries, the symptoms of a stress fracture often build up slowly. At first, you might notice very minor tenderness that is limited to one single spot and decreases when you rest your leg. Over time, the foot pain builds, and there might also be swelling. If your injury seems to be getting worse rather than better and is bothering you at night, you should speak to your foot doctor as soon as possible.

What Can Your Kelowna, BC or Victoria, BC Foot Doctor Do About Foot Pain?

When your foot hurts for more than a week and the pain isn’t subsiding, it’s time to speak to a podiatrist. They can first use imaging tests such as x-rays, a bone scan, or an MRI to double check that you have a hairline fracture. Then, they can suggest appropriate treatment methods.

Before your appointment, make sure your documentation is complete to avoid delays. Provide your doctor with your medical history, key personal information such as your exercise levels, information about what medications and supplements you take, and a list of your symptoms.

Resting and Icing 

Since the bone isn’t fully broken and doesn’t have to be set, hairline fractures can almost always be cured at home. As mentioned, you’re likely to feel better after six to eight weeks if you follow your doctor’s orders and avoid any activities that could stress your foot further. At the same time, you should ice the treatment area frequently. Many specialists suggest applying ice packs for approximately 15 minutes every three hours.

Once your doctor determines that you are ready to start exercising again, you should begin slowly to prevent the fracture from recurring. Over time, you can increase both the duration and intensity of physical activity until you are back to normal.

Interventions to Speed Up Healing and Reduce Pain 

Sometimes, patients suffer from severe pain after a hairline fracture, so they require over-the-counter or prescription medication. After your doctor has reviewed your medical history and checked for allergies, they can recommend the most suitable pain-relief drug. Additionally, they might ask you to take supplements that include nutrients involved in bone healing, since these could further speed up the recovery process.

Surgical intervention isn’t usually necessary, but if your bone isn’t likely to heal on its own, the podiatrist can insert internal fixations like screws, plates, or pins that support your tissues. Depending on your individual situation and the materials used, these fasteners will remain in your body indefinitely or be taken out after your fracture has healed.

How to Prevent Problems

Once you’ve recovered from your injury, your doctor will speak to you about how to prevent similar issues in the future. Most importantly, they will check that your diet contains enough calcium and Vitamin D. If not, they might suggest some foods that contain large quantities of these nutrients, such as soybeans and figs, or they can recommend a high-quality supplement.

The doctor will also discuss your exercise routine. If the fracture was caused by a sudden increase in activity, your specialist will speak to you about changing your routine more slowly next time. They can also recommend a good fitness trainer who can help you remain active safely.

Don’t Live With Foot Pain

Although foot pain is very common, it can be extremely debilitating, especially for people who are active in their day-to-day life. If you’re suffering from symptoms like swelling, pain, and tenderness, you shouldn’t delay speaking to your local foot doctor. You might have a simple sprain that heals within a few weeks, but you could also have a stress fracture. Your podiatrist can run some tests to diagnose the issue, then offer you treatment.

In many cases, the doctor will ask you to rest and ice your foot for several weeks, and sometimes, further treatment such as pain relief is necessary. The specialist will also examine your diet, posture, and exercise habits to determine whether you should make lifestyle changes that help you avoid future fractures. Call us now at Island Foot Clinics in Kelowna, BC and Victoria, BC to book your consultation with one of our doctors.