Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle
Our bones are important parts of our body, and they are constantly changing and enduring stress. When stress from repetitive loads prevent the bone from being able to repair itself, cracks may begin to form. These cracks can develop into stress fractures, or cracks in the bone that result from repetitive force and/or overuse.
The most common cause of a stress fractures is a sudden increase in the intensity and duration of physical activity. For example, if you begin to run long distances without working your way into doing so, you will be more likely to develop a stress fracture.
Common symptoms of stress fractures include pain and swelling near the weight bearing area on the injured bone. When initial X-rays are performed, it is possible that the fracture will not appear. However, once the stress on the area continues, the damage will increase, and the fracture will eventually be severe enough to show up on an X-ray. Certain parts of the foot are more likely to develop stress fractures than others. Areas that are more likely to develop stress fractures include the metatarsals, the navicular bone, the calcaneus, tibia, and fibula.
Since women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, they are twice as likely as men to sustain a stress fracture. In addition, old age causes a decrease in bone mineral density, which is why elderly people are also likely to develop these fractures.
It is important to be properly diagnosed for a stress fracture because there are other injuries that can easily be mistaken for a fracture. Sprains, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Morton’s neuroma can all easily be mistaken for stress fractures in the foot. Your doctor will likely ask you a series of questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing. These questions will help your doctor identify whether you have a stress fracture.
The best method of treatment for a stress fracture is rest. A walking boot, cast, or crutches may also help limit movement to the area that is injured. The typical healing time for stress fractures is 4-12 weeks; this depends, however, on which bone is involved.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body; it is a tough band of fibrous tissue that stretches from the bones of the heel to the calf muscles. This tendon is what allows us to stand on our toes while running, walking, or jumping, it is common for this tendon to become injured. In severe cases, the Achilles tendon may become partially torn or completely ruptured. However, this tendon is susceptible to injury because of its limited blood supply and the high tensions it endures.
The people who are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendon injuries are athletes who partake in activities that require them to speed up, slow down, or pivot. Consequently, athletes who engage in running, gymnastics, dance, football, baseball, basketball, or tennis are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendon injuries. Additionally, there are other factors that may make you more prone to this injury. People who wear high heels, have flat feet, have tight leg muscles or tendons, or take medicines called glucocorticoids are more likely to have Achilles tendon injuries.
A common symptom of an Achilles tendon injury is pain above the heel that is felt when you stand on your toes. However, if the tendon is ruptured, the pain will be severe, and the area may become swollen and stiff. Other symptoms may be reduced strength in the lower ankle or leg area, and reduced range of motion in the ankle. When the Achilles tendon tears, there is usually a popping sound that occurs along with it. People who have acute tears or ruptures may find walking and standing to be difficult.
If you suspect you have injured your Achilles tendon, you should see your podiatrist to have a physical examination. Your podiatrist will likely conduct a series of tests to diagnose your injury including a “calf-squeeze” test. Calf squeeze tests are performed by first squeezing the calf muscle on the healthy leg. This will pull on the tendon and consequently cause the foot to move. Afterward, the same test will be performed on the injured leg. If the tendon is torn, the foot won’t move because the calf muscle won’t be connected to the foot.