Stress Fracture



A stress fracture is caused by repeated stress or overuse from:

  • Increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too quickly
  • Changing to a new playing surface
  • Not wearing the right shoes or wearing old shoes for a sport

Risk Factors

Stress fractures are more common in women. Things that may raise the risk of this fracture are:

  • A sudden increase in activity
  • Not getting enough rest between physical activities
  • Playing sports that involve running and jumping, such as track and field, tennis, gymnastics, and basketball
  • Having female athlete triad
  • Bone disorders, such as osteoporosis and Paget disease
  • Low levels of vitamin D and calcium
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use disorder



Symptoms may be:

  • Pain that is worse with activity and better with rest
  • Swelling


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. They will also ask about regular activities. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect a stress fracture based on symptoms.

Pictures may be taken if pain is severe or fracture is not healing as expected. Tests may be:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan



It can take 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. The goal of treatment is to help the bones heal properly to prevent long term problems.


Support for a stress fracture can include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A walking boot to support the bone as it heals
  • A cane or crutches to allow movement with less stress on the bone
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion


To lower the chance of a stress fracture:

  • Slowly increase the amount and intensity of activities over time.
  • Wear the right shoes for sports.
  • Eat a diet that contains foods with vitamin D and calcium.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.