Metatarsal Stress Fracture – Causes , Symptoms And Treatment

A Metatarsal Stress Fracture is referred to as an incomplete crack in one of the Metatarsal bones.  There are actually five Metatarsal bones that are attached in the forefoot of a person.  This article will try to help you understand what a stress fracture of the metatarsals would mean for a patient.  In addition, all information about treatment for the condition will be included in the article.

Metatarsal Stress Fracture

The Specific Process

There are several muscles attached to the Metatarsal bones.  During contractions, there is a force that pulls the bones and extends them.  To add to this, putting on weight upon the Metatarsal bones will also place force on to the said area.

If this goes on for a long period of time and if the bone reaches its threshold of physical force that it can take, damage will eventually occur for the bones.  This can first result in a condition called bony stress reaction.  However, after some time of repeated stress, it can eventually progress to Metatarsal stress fracture.

Major Causes of Metatarsal Stress Fracture

Metatarsal Stress Fractures are commonly caused by any activity that will put weight on the Metatarsal bones over a long period of time.  It is just a matter of the external force affecting the Metatarsal being too strong for the bones to withstand any longer.

The Major Signs and Symptoms

Most commonly, the second Metatarsal bone next to the big toe is affected.  Below are some of the signs and symptoms that you have to watch out for when it comes to this condition.

  • Pain at the top of the foot which would increase when impacted by certain types of activities (running, dancing or standing while tiptoed)
  • Patients may also see some redness of the affected area as well as swelling.
  • Aches and pains during the night
  • The patient may also experience pain at the slightest touch of the affected area.  (usually the forefoot)

Additional Information

Patients with this condition may also experience pain despite being at rest.  In addition to this, simple activities like walking can also aggravate the situation.  However, medical tests will prove helpful in diagnosing the disease.  Here are some of the basic tests that a patient can undergo to confirm the severity of the condition.

The Diagnosis

Physical examinations will have to be done in order to confirm the severity of the condition as mentioned earlier.  The patients will have to undergo the following tests in order to get accurate results.

  • X-ray
  • MRI scans
  • CT scans
  • Bone scans of the affected area.

This will help the doctors plan out the kind of treatment that they can use for the patient.  Fortunately, this condition is curable and with the help of patience and determination, any patient will be able to survive this ordeal.

Possible Treatment Methods of Metatarsal Stress Fracture

To start, the patient will have to use crutches for about 4 to 8 weeks to be able to wrest the affected area from any weight bearing activities.  Then after this period of rest, the affected area can be readily subjected to external weight.  The patient will also be able to undergo light exercises provided that the symptoms would not increase during those exercises.  This kind of physical rehabilitation can occur for a few weeks to about a number of months.

To ensure the best results possible, doctors still advice the patients to undergo light flexibility and strengthening exercises under the supervision of a professional trainer or physical therapist.  This will be part of their rehabilitation.

As a form of alternative exercises to maintain fitness during rehab, the patients can take swimming classes to stretch the bones.

Factors That May Lead to Metatarsal Stress Fracture

Just like any other condition, there may be certain factors that can contribute to the aggravation of Metatarsal Stress Fracture in a patient.  These are as follows.

  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor posture for the foot
  • Joint stiffness
  • Inappropriate footwear (high heels or tight shoes)
  • Inadequate diet
  • Inappropriate physical training practices

By remembering all these factors, you will be able to avoid aggravating your situation in case you incur Metatarsal Stress Fracture.  To add to this, there are certain physical therapy treatment methods that you can undergo to make sure that you would be able to heal faster.  Some of these are as follows.

  • Dry Needling
  • Using Crutches
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Joint Mobilization
  • Electrotherapy (Ultrasound)
  • Activity or Behavior Modification
  • Taping
  • Strength, Balance and Flexibility Exercises
  • Education (gathering information about the condition)
  • Gradual Return to Physical Activities
  • Biomechanical Correction

Other forms of intervention

Sometimes, despite the excessive use of the upper mentioned methods to try to treat the condition, there are chances that it would still not work.  In these cases, further examinations are in order.  Most of the time, the patients will have to undergo a series of additional examinations for doctor to figure out how they can be helped specifically.

In addition, the patients may have to undergo extended periods of non-weight bearing immobilization.  As a last resort, some patients with this condition also undergo surgery for stabilization of the stress fracture and help hasten the healing process.

In addition to this, there are certain types of exercises that can be performed by the patient with the help of his physical therapist that.  They are generally performed three times a day and have been proven to not cause or increase any type of symptoms related to Metatarsal Stress Fracture.

Here are some of the specific steps for the exercises as follows:

  • Raise the foot and ankles up and down.
  • Move it as far apart as you can without experiencing pain.  Repeat these actions 10 to 20 times during the procedure.
  • After this, try to move your foot and ankle in and out, stretching it as far as possible without experiencing pain.  Like before, repeat this procedure 10 to 20 times.

This will help the affected area to get used to light force and can also help increase the limits with which the foot can withstand an external force.  In this way, you can also increase the chances of developing Metatarsal Stress Fracture in the future.

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