The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Surgeons Say Number of Stress Fractures Increase In Winter Months

Posted by on Monday, February 9th, 2015

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Not surprisingly, many emergency rooms see a 500% increase in visits during the winter months due to slip and fall accidents caused by ice and snow. But did you also know that the winter temperatures bring a dramatic uptick in stress fractures as well? Hairline cracks in the foot bones “are one of the more common winter-related injuries” according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

winter foot injuries
Winter can be a time for stress fractures for some. Image Source: Flickr.com (Michał Bielecki)

Why Do Stress Fractures Occur?

Overuse, repetitive weight-bearing motions, running and gymnastics can all cause stress fractures. In the winter, sporting activities like snowboarding, sledding, and ice skating are all leading causes of foot fractures. In older patients, even simple activities can take a toll on aging bones. For instance, just standing on a hard floor for too long can cause cracks in the bones if you do not have the right footwear.

What Are The Signs of a Stress Fracture?

The pain of a stress fracture typically occurs on the top of the foot. Symptoms worsen with activity and subside with rest. Pain, swelling, redness, and bruising may or may not be present. Patients have reported a “deep, aching pain” with excessive activity that can be very bothersome.

How Are Stress Fractures Treated At Home?

The basic treatment plan for most foot injuries, including stress fractures, includes:

  • Rest: Use a brace or take a seat to offload the pressure from the injured area.
  • Ice: Ice the affected area for 10-15 minutes once an hour, if possible, for the first 24-48 hours.
  • Compression: An ACE bandage wrap or compression garment can encourage circulation and healing.
  • Elevation: Keep your foot elevated above the heart, propped on a few pillows, as often as possible.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Take NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or aspirin for pain and swelling.

If the pain persists, it is important to see a New York podiatrist to prevent residual pain or stiffness.

How Do Specialists Treat Stress Fractures?

Foot and ankle surgeons diagnose stress fractures with a physical examination and imaging studies, when necessary. If caught early, treatment can take four to six weeks. You may have to wear a special surgical shoe or walking boot to immobilize the fracture. A small percentage of patients will require surgery. Strength-training and physical therapy can help you prevent similar problems in the future.

Is It Osteoporosis?

Another good reason to have your stress fracture checked out by a doctor is to make sure it is not the first sign of osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become fragile from loss of tissue. You may be at risk for osteoporosis if you are:

  • Female
  • Over 55
  • White or Asian
  • Small in frame
  • Sedentary
  • Using steroids
  • Not getting enough calcium
  • Undergoing early menopause or have an estrogen deficiency

Commonly, osteoporosis is related to hormonal changes or nutritional deficiencies. Preventative measures may include taking 400 to 1,000 mg of Vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Engaging in moderate exercise 3-4 days a week including weight-bearing exercises like weight-lifting, biking, or treadmill work, as well as balance training like Tai Chi or yoga. A bone density test at the podiatrist’s office can help you determine if osteoporosis is affecting your activity level and quality of life.

Treatment For Stress Fractures in New York City

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine treats patients with stress fractures at two state-of-the-art sports medicine facilities – one in Manhattan and one in White Plains/Westchester. Our goal, first and foremost, is to minimize your pain. From there, we create a customized treatment plan that takes a “whole body approach” and attacks the root cause of your biomechanical instability. We offer new methods to expedite healing that include microcurrent therapy and laser technology. Contact us for more information.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.