What Are Stress Fractures?
Stress fractures are small, incomplete breaks to the bone. These fractures present as small cracks in the bone, and while the break is small, a stress fracture is still very uncomfortable. If you have a stress fracture, you are likely experiencing pain, weakness, and swelling. Your symptoms might be mild or severe, depending on the location of the stress fracture.
Stress fractures are usually overuse injuries. If you put a large amount of stress on a certain body part for a long portion of time, the muscles might get overly tired. When the muscles cannot absorb the shock, they transfer some of the energy to the bones. Bones are not meant to absorb lots of shock, so they can fracture from the force.
Stress fractures can occur in any bone in the body, but this injury is most common in the lower leg and the foot. This is due to the additional amount of weight these bones carry.
If you have a stress fracture, you might be able to treat it on your own using the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). However, if the stress fracture doesn’t heal, your doctor might need to cast it to remove additional stress from the injury.
What Is a Break?
While a stress fracture is a small crack, a break is a complete fracture. Breaks are often caused by trauma, such as falls, car accidents, and sports injuries. People also suffer from breaks due to osteoporosis.
There are various types of breaks and an examination is needed to determine which one you have. A stable fracture is diagnosed when the ends of the broken bone still line up. The bone is almost in the same place it was prior to the break.
A compound fracture is much more serious. The bone actually cuts through the skin and might be visible.
A comminuted fracture is also very serious. With this type of fracture, the bone shatters into at least three pieces.
These are just some of the common breaks. If you have a break, you’re likely experiencing severe pain. The pain gets worse with movement, but even staying still isn’t enough to make it stop hurting. Numbness, swelling, and loss of function are also common symptoms. You might even notice a deformity at the break site.
It is critical to get treatment for a broken bone. The injured area will likely be placed in a cast, but in some cases, traction is needed to promote healing. You also might need pins and wires placed on your skin to hold the bone in place, so it can heal properly. Pins can often be placed on the outside of the skin, but sometimes, surgery is required.
Once the bone is healed, you might need to go through physical therapy. Your muscles might be atrophied, and a physical therapist will help you build the muscle back up while regaining your mobility.
Get Treatment for Stress Fractures and Breaks
Stress fractures and breaks are different injuries, but both require proper care. While you might be able to treat a stress fracture on your own, it’s critical to seek treatment if it doesn’t get better. If you have a complete break, you need to go to the doctor to get treatment. If the bone starts to grow back together on its own, it could heal improperly, causing you to lose function.