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Metatarsal stress fractures - aftercare

Alternate Names

Broken foot bone; March fracture; March foot; Jone’s fracture

Description

The metatarsal bones are the long bones in your foot that connect your ankle to your toes. A stress fracture is a break in the bone that happens with repeated injury or stress. Stress fractures are caused by using the foot in the same way over and over.

A stress fracture is different from an acute fracture, which is caused by a sudden and traumatic injury.

About Your Injury

Stress fractures are common in people who:

  • Increase their activity level suddenly
  • Do activities that put a lot of pressure on their feet, such as running, dancing, jumping, or marching (as in the military)
  • Have a bone condition such as osteoporosis (thin, weak bones) or arthritis (inflamed joints)
  • Have a nervous system disorder that causes loss of feeling in the feet

Early signs of a metatarsal stress fracture are pain:

  • During activity, but it goes away with rest
  • Over a wide area of your foot

Over time, the pain will be:

  • Present all the time
  • Stronger in one area of your foot

The area of your foot where the fracture is may be tender when you touch it. It may also be swollen.

What to Expect

An x-ray may not show there is a stress fracture for up to 6 weeks after the fracture occurred. Your health care provider may order a bone scan or MRI to help diagnose it.

You may wear a special shoe to support your foot. If your pain is severe, you may have a cast below your knee.

It may take 4 - 12 weeks for your foot to heal.

Self-care at Home

It is important to rest your foot.

  • Elevate your foot to decrease swelling and pain.
  • Do not do the activity or exercise that caused your fracture.
  • If walking is painful, your health care provider may advise you to use crutches to help support your body weight when you walk.

To Treat Pain

For pain, you can take a type of medicine called NSAIDs. You do not need a prescription for these.

  • Some examples of NSAIDs are ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (such as Aleve or Naprosyn)
  • Do NOT give aspirin to children.
  • If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or have had stomach ulcers or bleeding, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines.
  • Do not take more than the amount recommended on the bottle.

Follow-up

As you recover, your health care provider will check how well your foot is healing. He or she will tell you when you can stop using crutches or have your cast removed and start the activity again.

Activity

You can return to normal activity when you can do the activity without pain.

When you restart an activity after a stress fracture, build up slowly. If your foot begins to hurt, stop and rest.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if you have pain that does not go away or gets worse.

References

Choi L. Stress fractures. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2009.


Review Date: 6/29/2012
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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