The metatarsal bones are five long bones in the midsection of your foot. They are located in between your toe bones and heel bones. These bones can become fractured by repeated stress and overuse. Here are four things you need to know about metatarsal stress fractures.
What causes these injuries?
Metatarsal stress fractures happen when you put repetitive stress on the bones and don't give them time to heal. This can happen if you suddenly start working out more often than normal. For example, if you've been taking it easy during the off-season and then resume vigorous workouts when the season starts, you may develop a stress fracture.
Exercising in improper shoes, like worn-out running shoes that have lost their ability to cushion your feet, can also lead to this injury. Make sure to replace your shoes regularly.
What signs should you watch out for?
Unlike acute fractures, stress fractures develop over a period of time, so the symptoms may be mild at first. You may feel tenderness in the middle of your foot while you're working out, but when you stop, the pain will go away. This makes it easy to ignore the pain, but working through the pain can make the injury worse.
If you don't rest, the pain will get more severe and your foot will become swollen. Eventually, your foot will hurt all the time, even when you're resting. The pain will be concentrated in one part of your foot, where the bone is broken.
How are metatarsal stress fractures treated?
If you have a metatarsal stress fracture, resting your foot is incredibly important. Don't try to push through the pain to keep doing the sport responsible for the injury. If it's hard for you to walk, your doctor will recommend using crutches so that you don't need to put weight on your foot.
You may be given either a special shoe or a cast to immobilize your foot while it heals. Your doctor will monitor your foot and let you know when you've healed. At this point, you can stop using your crutches and your cast will come off. When you resume sports, make sure to start slowly to avoid giving yourself another stress fracture. If you feel pain, stop running for at least another two weeks and consult with your doctor.
If resting and casting isn't enough to heal your fractures, your doctor may need to refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for further treatment. The surgeon can surgically repair your fractures.
Are these injuries common?
It's not known how common metatarsal stress fractures are among the general population. The studies that have been done have focused on high-level athletes or the military. Among these groups, this injury is common. For example, 16% of all athletic injuries are stress fractures.
If you think you have a metatarsal stress fracture after starting a new workout routine, seek medical attention, such as from Tedder Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center.