Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. Stress fractures are caused by the repetitive application of force, often by overuse — such as repeatedly jumping up and down or running long distances. Stress fractures can also arise from normal use of a bone that’s been weakened by a condition such as osteoporosis.
Stress fractures are most common in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. Track and field athletes are particularly susceptible to stress fractures, but anyone can experience a stress fracture. If you’re starting a new exercise program, for example, you may be at risk if you do too much too soon.
Symptoms of a stress fracture include:
Tenderness in a specific spot
Increased swelling and pain with activity
Decreased swelling and pain with rest
Earlier onset of pain with each successive workout
Continued pain at rest as the damage progresses
At first, stress fractures may be barely noticeable. But pay attention to the pain. Proper self-care and treatment can keep the stress fracture from worsening.
When to see a doctor
Contact your doctor if your pain becomes severe or persists even at rest.