What is it?
Stress fractures are common overuse injuries, and fractures of the calcaneus, or heel bone, are especially common in running athletes. In the early stages of stress fracture the athlete will report heel pain that starts after a certain distance of running, but that eases with rest. As the condition progresses the pain will start at a shorter distance and will take longer and longer to away with rest. If left untreated the condition will eventually become painful during regular daily activities such as standing and walking and may not go away with rest. The pain generally runs down one or both sides of the heel bone. This is different from Achilles Tendonitis, where the pain is on the back of the heel, or Plantar Fasciitis, where the pain is on the underside of the heel. If your podiatrist believes that you have a stress fracture they will order x-rays and occasionally an MRI scan is required to confirm the diagnosis.
4 Life Podiatry
The treatment of Calcaneal stress fracture (heel stress fracture) is almost always non surgical. Often the athlete is provided a boot or protective shoe and often decreasing the patients weight bearing is sufficient to get the fracture to heal. Running is typically not allowed whilst the fracture is healing and your podiatrist may refer you to an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist to set up a return to running program.
Prevention & Home Management Strategies
Stress Fracture is an “overuse” injury. As such the damage is typically small in the early stages of the condition, but left untreated will gradually worsen. Stress fracture typically starts as a stress reaction before progressing to a fracture. As such the sooner the condition is assessed by a Podiatrist, the less likely the condition will progress to a fracture. Prevention of stress fracture relies on early detection and management.
Decreased bone mineral density can also be a causative factor for stress fracture, so if you are concerned this can be discussed with your general practitioner.
Once stress fracture is diagnosed there are several home management strategies including:
- Rest from running
- Wearing the protective boot or shoe as prescribed by your Podiatrist
- Undertaking non impact exercise such as stationary bike or swimming
- Seeing a sports nutritionist to ensure adequate calories, vitamin and mineral intake