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Memorial Day Weekend comes a bit early this year, but it is often seen as the kick-off to summer with its increased outdoor fun. Remember, though, anytime you suddenly increase the intensity of your activity, you risk injury to your bones. They don’t have time to adapt to the new pressure on them, and you could end up with a stress fracture.

This is different from a bone breaking in two from accident with your bike or falling off a ladder while cleaning the gutters. It happens more slowly over time, and only affects the surface of the bone. Repeated stress on bone tissue can weaken it, and small cracks can form in the outer layer.

You may only notice a slight achiness at first in a certain spot—such as the area behind your toes, the back of your foot, or your shins—that goes away when you rest. This would be the ideal time to start treatment, but it may resemble a strained muscle, sprain, or plantar fasciitis, and you might not recognize the true nature of your injury.

When you think about a broken bone in your foot, you might expect that you couldn’t wiggle your toes, move your ankle, or walk on the foot, but this is a misconception. You might also think the area would swell up and turn black and blue, but that may not be the case either. Really, the only way you can confirm a stress fracture is with an X-ray, CAT scan, or MRI.  However, bear in mind that stress fractures may delay showing up on x-rays for 10-14 days.  If you have gone to the ER or your primary care physician for x-rays within 2 weeks of when the pain started and were told you were clear, you still may have a stress fracture.

While a full fracture may require realigning the bones, a cast, or even surgery, the main treatment for this type of break is to stay off the foot until it heals. However, this may be difficult since walking is a crucial part of most peoples lives. Usually we treat this condition with a walking boot or brace to offload the injured bone and eliminate stress to that area of the foot. This will allow you to continue to function without completely staying off of the foot. Granted, with more severe cases we may want you to use crutches to eliminate weight-bearing, but casts or surgery are not usually needed. You might benefit from elevating the foot, using ice to reduce pain or swelling, and taking any pain medication we prescribe, but the main treatment is rest so the bone can heal properly.

If you are not sure what is causing your foot pain, visit Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists to nail down the reason and find the best treatment. Call (949) 364-9255 (WALK) and set up an appointment at our office in Ladera Ranch, CA today conveniently located across from Mission Hospital in the Medical office building 1.

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