Calcaneal Stress Fracture: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment- Heel Pad, Plaster Cast, Rehab
The calcaneus is also known as the heel bone which is present in the back of foot. Overuse or repetitive strain to this bone results in a stress fracture. It is commonly seen in those individuals who are involved in activities which put continuous pressure on the heel bone such as soldiers, who have to march a lot etc. Acute fractures of the calcaneus bone occurs from a sudden impact or force to the heel, e.g. falling from a height and landing on the heel.
Causes of Calcaneal Stress Fracture
- Increased weight bearing e.g. marching and running.
- A recent increase or change in training regime.
- Risk Factors Include: Bad foot posture, weakness of the muscles, poor flexibility, stiffness in the ankle joint, ill-fitting footwear and excessive or inappropriate training especially on hard or rough surfaces.
Signs and Symptoms of Calcaneal Stress Fracture
- Pain in the heel which gradually intensifies.
- Increasing pain upon weight bearing.
- Pain upon pressing the back part of heel from both sides.
- X-ray may not reveal a fracture until the actual healing process of the fracture has started. Stress fracture may not be visible on x-ray at all. MRI or bone scan can be done for further confirmation of diagnosis.
Treatment of Calcaneal Stress Fracture
- Patient should seek consultation from a sports specialist immediately.
- In case of a stress fracture, rest should be taken for 6 to 8 weeks. Complete weight-bearing should be avoided and crutches can be used for support.
- Heel pad can be used for protection of the heel.
- For severe pain, a plaster cast should be applied for 2 - 6 weeks.
- Patient should start a rehab program consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises to increase mobility and flexibility of the muscles of the lower leg.
- Deep tissue massage can be done by a professional.
- Electrotherapy such as ultrasound is also beneficial.
- Athlete should return to the training regime gradually.