Foot and ankle stress fracture repair

Foot and ankle stress fracture repair

Stress fractures are tiny hairline cracks on the surface of the bone.  These fractures, unlike displaced or compound fractures, don't go beyond the surface.  Foot and ankle stress fractures are usually the result of overuse or injury to the lower extremities.

Most stress fractures occur in the feet and lower part of the legs. When muscles become overtired due to overuse, they are no longer able to absorb the shock of repeated impact. When this happens, the shock will deflect and be absorbed by the bones. Cracks or stress fractures of the bones result from the misplaced shock absorption. Ballet, basketball training, stressful exercise and other strenuous activities that involve overuse and forceful motion in the feet are the main causes of stress fractures.

Foot and ankle stress fracture repair usually consist of nonsurgical treatments.

Types

Stress fractures of the foot and ankle do not usually require surgery. Stress fractures are normally able to heal on their own or with the help of nonsurgical treatments such as:

  • Rest – Keep your foot elevated and immobile once you experience symptoms of a foot or ankle stress fracture. Applying ice or heat therapy to the area will aid in relieving pain and swelling.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine – Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are popular medicines used to alleviate pain and inflammation in and around the fracture.
  • Change your exercise routine – If your stress fracture is a result of sports or exercise routines, your doctor may suggest that you change or lessen the activity. In some instances, you may need to completely replace or stop an activity altogether. Swimming and cycling are some good alternatives to more stressful sports and forms of exercise.
  • Footwear modification – You might be prescribed alternate footwear such as stiff-soled shoes or sandals while the stress fracture heals. A temporary fracture brace may also be placed inside your shoe to encourage healing.
  • Casts – In more extreme cases, such as stress fractures on your pinkie toe, talus or navicular bones, you may be required to wear a cast. The cast will protect your foot and ankle from movement and force, while allowing the injured area to heal. Using crutches or a cane in addition to a cast can help you remain mobile.

Surgery

Surgery may be necessary for severe injuries or stress fractures that don’t respond to other treatments. Surgery will most likely consist of implanting screws, pins and/or plates to immobilize the fractured bone during the healing process. 

After treatment

Since stress fractures cause such minimal damage to the affected bones, you can expect complete recovery after treatment. As you heal, your doctor will provide guidelines and instructions for performing accepted activities. It is always important to adhere strictly to these guidelines, since you are at a higher risk for re-injury that could lead to permanent pain or more serious problems.

The multidisciplinary team of foot and ankle experts at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute performs repair of stress fractures of the foot and ankle as well as a broad range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for conditions that affect the foot and ankle.

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