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Metatarsal Stress Fractures

What is it?

The metatarsals are the 5 long bones of the foot that lie between the midfoot and toes.  This is a common overuse injury of one or more of the metatarsals.  The most common sites for this condition are the 2nd and 3rd metatarsals.

What are the symptoms?

Typical symptoms include pain over the top of the metatarsal area of the foot that diminishes with rest and is aggravated with exercise; there may also be swelling and tenderness to touch the fracture site.

What causes it?

Bone is in a constant state of turnover (new bone replacing old bone) and where the breakdown of bone outpaces the body’s ability to heal, the bone weakens and will be vulnerable to stress fracture.  Either increasing intensity or volume of training too quickly is another risk factor for stress fractures.  For example, increasing your training too quickly after the winter months is a bad idea and should be done gradually.  Footwear is also an important consideration.  Wearing shoes not fit for purpose will increase your chances of developing a metatarsal stress fracture.

What to do at home

If you think you have developed a stress fracture STOP RUNNING and rest/elevate the foot as much as possible.  Ice the painful area for 15 minutes, several times per day.

When to seek help

Immediately seek the opinion of an appropriately qualified health professional.

How is it treated?

Treatment aims to relieve pain and also to facilitate healing of the bone.  It typically takes 6-8 weeks for the stress fracture to heal fully.

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