There’s been a lot of buzz lately around Maria Menounos’ recent performance on Dancing with the Stars despite apparent injuries to both feet. I must admit I’m not a big fan of the show, although I give major props to anyone who can pull off those moves in front of a national audience – especially with a stress fracture.
So what is a stress fracture anyway?
Well, since you asked, a stress fracture is a break in a normal bone caused by abnormal activity. Constant pressure causes it to break down and eventually fracture. This may be secondary to a new exercise routine, different shoes, a job in the big city, or just everyday wear and tear. Most commonly, stress fractures are seen in weight-bearing areas of the foot – especially the second metatarsal. Typically, patients in my NYC podiatry office complain of swelling and pain in the affected foot, and often bring an X-ray that shows no evidence of any fracture. However, a negative X-ray doesn’t rule out a stress fracture. It usually takes about 2 weeks for fractures to become evident on X-rays, since the healing process is the first sign of injury. That’s why I always obtain a repeat X-ray in my NYC office whenever I suspect a stress fracture.
How is this treated?
The good news is that these injuries heal very well. Unlike fractures from more forceful trauma, the fracture is generally non-displaced, meaning the fragments are aligned well, allowing the body to mend the pieces relatively quickly. This rarely requires a cast, and patients can typically walk immediately in a boot. Full healing takes about 3-6 weeks, but most patients are able to walk in a comfortable shoe within 3-4 weeks of the original injury. Activity is allowed, and though it usually doesn’t involve competitive dancing, as an active runner who slogs through aches and pains, I understand Maria’s desire to push the envelope a little.
So if you have an achy swollen foot that’s not getting better, and an X-ray showing nothing’s wrong, it’s a good idea to get it checked out by a podiatrist. Better to invest some downtime to allow an injured foot to heal in order to minimize downtime in the long term. Don’t worry, as a runner, I feel your pain, and promise to keep the downtime to a minimum.
See you in the office.
Ernest L. Isaacson, DPM