A stress fracture is a hairline crack in a bone. In some cases, the
crack may be so small that it is not visible on an X-ray.
Stress fractures are usually caused by repeated stress on a bone
rather than by a specific injury. They can occur in any bone that repeatedly
bears weight. For instance, stress fractures in the small bones of the foot are
common during intensive training for sports that involve lots of running or
jumping. A stress fracture is also more likely to occur in a bone that is not
accustomed to or conditioned for a particular activity, such as when a person
starts a new sport.
The most common symptom of a stress fracture is persistent pain at
the site of the fracture. Pain may improve temporarily during exercise but gets
increasingly worse after each exercise session.
If the activity that caused the stress fracture is stopped, the
bone will heal and symptoms will go away. The activity can then be resumed
gradually until the bone becomes conditioned to the repeated movements.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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