Stress Fracture | Stress Reaction

Denner Chiropractic & Performance | Pineville, North Carolina

Stress fractures, also known as fatigue fractures, are a type of bone injury caused by repetitive overloading of the bone. They are more common in athletes due to their increased activity levels and range of motion. A stress reaction is an early-stage condition that can lead to a stress fracture if not treated correctly.

The diagnosis of a stress fracture or reaction often requires careful evaluation by medical professionals such as sports chiropractors. Imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans may be necessary to accurately identify the condition. Physical examinations can also confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential causes of pain in the affected area.

What Is A Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a surprisingly common injury that can cause immense pain and disruption to life. It is an injury so severe that it can stop even the most avid athletes in their tracks. While these fractures can be caused by any number of activities, overexerting oneself in sports or physical activities is typically the main culprit. The most common type of stress fracture is a metatarsal stress fracture, which affects runners, dancers, and other athletes who are constantly putting strain on their feet and ankles.

What does a metatarsal stress fracture feel like?

It can range from mild soreness to sharp shooting pains when pressure is applied to the injured area. Stress fracture symptoms include

  • Pain at rest
  • Swelling
  • Sensation of a deep dull ache
  • An increase in pain when weight is applied through the surrounding joints.

What Is A Stress Reaction?

A stress reaction is a point of weakening in a bone caused by repetitive force and overuse. If left untreated, the bone can break completely, causing more serious injury.

The most common locations for stress fractures are the lower tibia, metatarsals, and other bones of the feet and lower legs. Stress reactions are similar to stress fractures in that they are both considered to be stress injuries.

However, there is an important distinction between the two. Whereas a stress fracture is a complete crack in the bone, a stress reaction occurs when the bone begins to weaken but does not crack all the way through. It is sometimes referred to as a “spontaneous fracture” because it can occur without any major incident or trauma that would normally cause such damage.

Common symptoms of both conditions include pain that increases with activity, tenderness at the site of injury, swelling and warmth around the area of injury, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected limb.

If diagnosed in the early stages a stress reaction can be treated with joint manipulation and rehabilitation exercises. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, these conditions can become chronic problems that severely limit mobility and activity levels. If a short period of rest and rehab don't alleviate symptoms, some cases may require surgery or casting for proper healing.

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Treatment Methods for Stress Fractures | Stress Reactions

When it comes to stress fractures, timely and appropriate treatment is critical for a full recovery. If left untreated, a hairline fracture can worsen and become a higher risk of non-union or non-healing.

Runners who have stress fractures should consider switching to low impact activities such as swimming or cycling. Shoes with extra support can help manage the symptoms of a stress fracture in the foot.

Rehabilitation exercises are an important part of treating stress reactions to ensure that this injury doesn't turn into a stress fracture. These exercises can also help reduce pain and inflammation, improve range of motion, as well as strengthen muscles and connective tissue.

Once an athlete has an active stress fracture, treatment consists of rest and immobilization for a period of time until the fracture has fully healed.

Treatment for Stress Reactions at Denner Chiropractic & Performance typically consists of 

Causes of Stress Fractures | Stress Reactions

The most common cause of developing a stress fracture is through over-training oneself. Repedative exesive loads being placed on bone tissue during exercise leads to microdamages. Inadequate rest between workouts can inhibit the healing process of existing microfractures, increasing one’s risk of developing a full-blown stress fracture. Other causes include poor form during running or other activities, and improper motor control of movement patterns leading to muscles that are unable to properly support the force being placed through the bone structurs.


  • Overtraining

Exerting too much strain on the bone during exercise 

  • Inadequate rest

Insufficient time between workouts for healing process

  • Poor form

Improper movement patterns while exercising

  • Weak muscles

Unable to provide proper support for bones when needed 


The best way to prevent a stress fracture is by listening to one’s body and giving it enough rest between workouts. Other prevention techniques include strengthening core muscles with exercises, making sure you have proper running shoes that provide stability and cushioning, warming up with dynamic stretching before each workout session, and monitoring your intensity levels during exercise sessions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Stress Fractures And Stress Reactions The Same Thing?

The question of whether stress fractures and stress reactions are the same thing has been raised. It is important to understand that there are subtle differences between these two conditions, and it is necessary to explore the nuances in order to make an informed assessment. Stress fractures occur when a bone is subjected to excessive force, resulting in a small crack or fracture. On the other hand, stress reactions involve the same mechanism but consist of small microtraumas that cause pain, inflammation, and swelling. The small microtraumas if left untreated can lead to a stress fracture. 

What Activities Should I Avoid If I Have A Stress Fracture?

When it comes to activities that should be avoided if one has a stress fracture, it is important to take into account the particular type of fracture and its severity. High-impact and repetitive activities such as running, jumping, or other high-impact sports can put significant strain on the bones, leading to further fracturing or worsening of existing fractures. Low-impact activities such as walking or swimming are recommended instead.

Are Stress Fractures Common In Athletes?

Stress fractures are common in athletes, especially those involved in high-impact activities. Such activities put large amounts of force on the bones, muscles, and connective tissues which can lead to microdamage that over time can become a stress fracture. Factors such as age, gender, equipment used, technique, and training load all contribute to an individual's risk of sustaining a stress fracture. While some athletes may be more prone to developing them due to certain characteristics or environments, it is important for all athletes to take measures to minimize their risk of injury.

How Long Does It Take For A Stress Fracture To Heal?

A stress fracture can take anywhere from six to eight weeks for complete healing. Stress fractures occur when there is an overload of stress on the bone or soft tissue, usually due to repetitive activities. Symptoms may include swelling, pain, and tenderness in the affected area. Treatment typically involves rest and limiting physical activity while the fracture heals. If given enough time and proper care, a full recovery can be expected.

What Is The Difference Between A Stress Fracture And A Regular Fracture?

A stress fracture is a microscopic crack in a bone caused by repeated application of force, while a regular fracture is a complete break in the bone. The main difference between the two is that with a stress fracture, the fracture line may not be visible on an X-ray initially and may take time to develop, while a regular fracture will be immediately visible and require more extensive treatment. Stress fractures are typically caused by overuse or increased intensity of physical activity whereas regular fractures can occur from direct trauma or high-force impacts. Treatment for both types of fractures usually involves rest, immobilization and rehabilitation exercises.

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