A stress fracture is a complete or incomplete break in a bone caused by intense exercise or repetitive and prolonged pressure on the bone. The wear and injury in the bone due to the excessive pressure or intense exercise exceeds the bone's ability to heal and repair the injury, resulting in a breakdown of the bone.
Stress fractures are caused by repetitive forces greater than the bone can withstand. This usually follows a change in training or performance schedule, equipment, or intensity of activity. It is also associated with a bone's ability to heal, which may be impaired when there is a loss of menstrual period in women.
Initial treatment consists of ice to relieve pain and relative rest from the activity that caused the fracture. Occasionally, bone protection with splint, brace, or cast immobilization may be recommended to allow the bone to heal. Surgery may be needed in fractures that (1) are at high risk of moving and great risk of complications (hip), (2) are at high risk of not healing (Jones fracture, certain leg fractures), or (3) become complete and displaced (out of alignment).
Immobility of a bone for a long period can cause loss of muscle bulk, stiffness in nearby joints, and edema (accumulation of fluid in tissues). Physical therapy may be necessary to regain motion of nearby ligaments after immobilization or surgery and to regain strength of the muscles around the joint.
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