Treating Back Pain Caused by Arthritis
How to Ease Pain Caused by a Stress Fracture
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that are caused by repeated stress or application of a greater amount of force than the bones normally bear. It is a fatigue-induced fracture that usually happens in weight-bearing areas, like the leg and foot. In fact, half of all stress fractures happen in the bottom half of the leg.If you have determined that you are in pain due to a stress fracture, you can take steps to relieve pain.
Easing the Pain at Home
Stop the activity causing the fracture.If you haven't already, you need to stop doing the activity that caused the stress fracture in the first place. You should have some idea of what caused it, as it probably started hurting while you were doing it.
- Stress fractures are caused by doing the same thing over and over again. That's why you need to not do that particular activity at the moment.For instance, you may need to stop running for a little while to help your leg heal.
Slow down.You need to rest whatever bone you fractured. That means taking a break from all regular activities for that limb, not just the activity that caused the fracture.
- Your doctor will tell you when you can put weight on your leg again, if the fracture is in your foot or leg.
Use elevation.Elevation means putting the injured area above your heart. At the very least, it should be off the ground if it is your leg or foot. Elevation helps cut down on pain and swelling.
- Try propping the limb up with a pillow.
Use ice.If you're not in a cast, which is likely, you may need to ice the injured area for the first day or two. You can apply ice up to four times a day, but make sure you don't apply it to bare skin. Always have a towel or cloth between your skin and the ice pack. With your doctor's permission, you can take off your boot to apply ice to the area, if you have one.
- Don't apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Take over-the-counter pain medications.You can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) for pain. The choice is up to you, though they both have advantages and disadvantages.
- NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory, meaning they can help reduce swelling, which can help with an injury like a fracture.On the other hand, other studies have shown that NSAIDs may not be as good when you're trying to heal a bone due to their blood thinning properties, so it may be better to take acetaminophen.The American Association of Family Physiciansrecommends acetaminophen.
- 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 doctor before using these medicines.
Increase activity slowly.Once you start being active again, go slowly. It's important to not start the activity that caused the fracture again right off the bat because you can re-injure yourself, causing more pain.
- At first, it's best to choose activities that do not put weight on your injury, such as swimming or water walking.
Stretch and strengthen your muscles.Your muscles support your bone, so they need to be strong enough to provide that support.As you heal, you need to perform stretches to lengthen the area. If you're unsure how to begin, consult with a physical therapist to learn which exercises to start with. It's best to begin slowly. Also, focus on strength training exercises, such as weightlifting, to strengthen muscles in that area. Again, it's important to begin slowly, starting with smaller weights and working your way up.
- In addition to strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise can help muscles re-adjust to a stressful activity.
Try orthotics.Certain orthotics can help reduce the stress on your foot. For instance, you can try inserts for your shoes, the kind designed to take some of the shock off your foot as you step.
Getting Professional Treatment
Visit a doctor.If you suspect you have a stress fracture, visiting a doctor is a must for helping ease the pain. The doctor can assess whether you have a fracture or a sprain and help you better understand how to treat it.
- In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
Expect imaging tests.If you have a history of stress fractures, the doctor may diagnose your condition without imaging tests. However, if you are coming in for the first time for this kind of injury, your doctor will want to run imaging tests to see if it is actually broken.
- One type of imaging test you may have done is an X-ray, where your doctor uses radiation to produce an image of your bones. However, this type of test won't always show stress fractures right away.
- Your doctor may move on to a bone scan or MRI. With a bone scan, she will first inject a substance known as a tracer into your blood. This substance is radioactive and helps the doctor see the fracture when the bone is scanned.However, sometimes other injuries appear the same as a fracture with this type of scan.
- With an MRI, magnets are used to produce an image of your bone. You won't be exposed to any kind of radiation with this scan, and it generally produces a good image of the injury.
Ask about limb support.Sometimes, you can get away without wearing a cast, splint, or walking boot with a stress fracture. Nonetheless, having support on the fractured bone can help ease the pain.
- Sometimes, in place of a walking cast, your doctor may have you were a stiff-soled shoe or sandal.On your shoulder, you might wear a sling.
Talk about crutches.You may need crutches, as they take the weight off your foot completely. Not putting weight on your foot can reduce the pain. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether they are a good solution for you.
Ask about a prescription.If your pain is severe, your doctor may write you a prescription for pain medication. However, she may ask you to rely on over-the-counter medications.
QuestionHow do I tape 2 metatarsal stress fractures for walking?Susan AllisonCommunity AnswerPlace the tape between the toes on either side, so that you can tape them together.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is wrong if I have pain behind the pad of my right toe that goes up into my arch on the bottom of my foot?Susan AllisonCommunity AnswerYou have probably pulled a muscle or ligament in your foot.Thanks!
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