About Stress Fracture
Stress Fracture is the name given to a pathological condition in which there is development of tiny cracks in the bones. These cracks usually develop as a result of overuse or repetitive force applied generally on the foot like jumping up and down for long period of time or running long distances like a marathon.1 Normal wear and tear of bones due to daily use can also lead to stress fracture.
These types of stress fractures are prevalent in only those individuals who have a condition called osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become weak and brittle and tend to get fractured easily. Stress fractures are commonly seen on the weight bearing bones and joints of the body, which are the lower part of the leg and the foot. These are mostly seen in individuals who participate in track and field events and put a lot of load on the foot. They are also seen in individuals who are in the armed forces who carry heavy backpacks on their backs and walk for long distances, which put a lot of stress on the lower extremities.
The main cause for a stress fracture is increased stress on bones such as when increasing the intensity of an activity too quickly, which the bones may not be able to handle. The mechanism behind bones being able to handle increased stress or load on them is that it adapts itself through remodeling. The speed of remodeling is directly proportional to the load put on the bones. Thus, as the load increases the rate of remodeling of the bone also increases. During remodeling, the bone is destroyed and rebuilt at a very rapid pace. If the load on the bones is increased rapidly without giving enough time for the bones to recover and rebuild, then it can result in stress fracture.
Once diagnosed with stress fracture, the question that is in the mind of most of the patients is how long does a stress fracture take to heal and how long before one can get back to their normal activities of daily living or sporting activities.
How Long Does A Stress Fracture Take To Heal?
To answer the question about the time taken for a stress fracture to heal, in majority of cases it usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks for the stress fracture to fully heal. In cases where the stress fracture is more severe, then it may take anywhere between 10 to 12 weeks for the fracture to heal completely. The time frame give above is the average time taken for an individual to recover from a stress fracture provided the individual is compliant with the treatment and exercise regimen formulated by the treating physician and the physical therapist.
If the individual gets back to activities too soon or before the physician recommends, then the individual will be at increased risk for a much serious stress fracture that may take even longer to heal and may prevent the individual from returning back to recreational or sporting activity for even longer period of time.
It is extremely important for stress fracture patients to make sure that the affected area is not reinjured as this can become a chronic problem and the individual may never reach to a pre-injury state as a result of the stress fracture.
The confirmation whether the stress fracture has healed will be done through radiological studies conducted after about 8 weeks post-injury. Once radiological studies have confirmed healing of the fracture, the physician will recommend slow and gradual progression of activities, which will take another couple of weeks. This will give the time for the bone to get stronger and be ready to take the stress of daily life more easily.
In conclusion, it takes around 6 to 8 weeks for an individual to recover from a stress fracture; however, individuals with a more serious form of stress fracture or a recurrent stress fracture tends to take more than 10 to 12 weeks to completely recover from the fracture provided that the individual is compliant with the treatment strategies provided by the treating physician and the physical therapist.