Orthopedic Concerns

Stress Fractures

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone caused by repetitive stress or overuse. Stress fractures can also result from osteoporosis. Stress fractures occur when the forces the bone is subjected to are higher than the bone’s mechanical strength and more frequent than the body’s ability to repair damaged bone. Stress fractures are most common in the weight bearing bones of the legs in running athletes.


What causes a stress fracture?

Stress fractures are caused by overuse. This commonly occurs in athletes who participate in track and field, cross country, tennis, or basketball. Stress fractures can also occur in individuals who ramp up their activity from a sedentary lifestyle. Stress fractures are more common in women and people with osteoporosis.


How is a stress fracture diagnosed?

Stress fractures may not be visible on regular x-rays immediately. MRI or bone scan may be necessary to diagnose a stress fracture.


How are stress fractures treated?

Stress fractures are typically treated non-operatively, with rest and pain medication. However, there are certain stress fractures that are at risk for not healing or progressing to a displaced fracture, and sometimes surgery may be recommended for stress fracture.