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Metatarsal stress fractures - aftercare
Broken foot bone; March fracture; March foot; Jone’s fracture
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.