Since stress fractures can occur in anyone, they can be left untreated because they don’t happen in one catastrophic moment.
What is a Fracture?
We may be more familiar with the term broken bone, but a fracture is no different. These terms can be used interchangeably, and they are used interchangeably by medical professionals. Whenever a bone loses integrity—no matter the degree of severity—it’s considered a fracture.
There are different kinds of fractures; these are classified by the extent and type of break to the bone. Some of the most common types of fracture are:
- Comminuted: There are three or more pieces and fragments present at the fracture location.
- Compression: The bone has been crushed, giving it a flatter appearance.
- Greenstick: An incomplete fracture that has not totally separated.
- Oblique: A bone that is broken diagonally.
- Segmental: The bone has been broken in two places, leaving a “floating” section in the middle.
- Spiral: The fracture spirals around the bone.
- Transverse: The fracture goes straight across the bone.
What is a Stress Fracture?
A stress fracture is different from the others listed above. This kind of fracture occurs when a small amount of force is repeatedly applied to the bone, resulting in microscopic damage. The keyword here is repeatedly because a small amount of force is not enough to cause a fracture unless there are other factors at play. However, when the same force occurs over a period, a stress fracture can result.
A stress fracture is an overuse injury. They can occur anywhere in the body but most commonly occur in the lower extremities due to weight-bearing activity and impact.
How to Detect a Stress Fracture?
If you’ve completely broken a bone, it’s easy to detect, but a stress fracture is not as obvious. Unlike other kinds of fractures, with a stress fracture, there is no one causal event that we can quickly pinpoint.
- Discomfort that alleviates with rest
- Discomfort that worsens during your daily routine activities
- Tenderness when touched
If you are unsure whether you have a stress fracture, an MRI can give you an absolute answer.
Stress Fractures in the Ankle
The repetitive weight-bearing activities which are part of our daily lives can impact the foot and ankle. The small bones—metatarsal bones—in the foot are especially vulnerable to stress fractures because of their size; it would take much less pressure to fracture a metatarsal bone than it would a thigh bone.
Stress fractures in the ankle may initially begin with a faint dull ache or feeling of weakness and discomfort in the area. However, as the injury develops, this sensation intensifies and can get to the point where the discomfort can make it impossible to walk normally. Continuing activity on ankle stress fractures only injures you further.
If you are experiencing such symptoms, you must take action as soon as you can. It’s common for people, especially those who are used to being active, to think they can “walk-off” the sensation. This is not the case with a stress fracture, and not true with stress fractures in the ankle. Continued pressure and impact on the injured area postpone healing and can result in other compensatory injuries.
Establishing the Correct Therapeutic Protocol
It’s vital to treat ankle stress fractures with care and attention. If you continue to put pressure and strain on the area, it will only get worse. The best thing to do is diagnose and treat it in a comprehensive and sustained way. If you do not allow for full healing, a stress fracture can reopen, and you can delay your recovery.
Foot massage is a vital part of any fracture recovery protocol. By utilising gentle foot massage, you can reduce swelling and increase blood circulation. Massage is known to have many physical benefits, as well as improving a sense of relaxation and wellbeing, and is a crucial part of any recovery process.
You may imagine that if walking or applying other kinds of pressure to the area can worsen the injury, that massage wouldn’t be compatible. This is not the case. Ankle stress fractures respond beautifully to massage. A gentle massage can reduce inflammation, minimises the likelihood of stiff tissue development, increases fibroblast —“healing” cells— production, and stimulates blood flow, which, in turn, optimises oxygen and nutrient activity in the area.
You can combine this with other beneficial practices like wearing protective footwear, keeping your foot elevated and still, using ice packs, resting, using crutches, or taking anti-inflammatory medicines.
It can take time and sustained effort to treat ankle stress fractures. With gentle, targeted foot massage, you can begin the recovery process. Call us on (02) 8073 9382 to make an appointment.