Stress fractures are treated by resting the leg as much as possible. Whatever activities you are participating in that increase force in the legs (running, jumping or “cutting” in sports) must be stopped for at least 3 weeks in order for the bone to begin the healing process. Your physical therapist can decide whether you should use a compressive brace, crutches, or a walking boot to protect your bone while it is healing. Your therapist can design a specific treatment program for you to follow at home to help speed your recovery. Initial treatment will focus on muscle-strengthening exercises using bands rather than heavy weights.
As You Start to Recover
Your physical therapist’s overall goal is to return you to your normal daily tasks at home, at work, and in the community. Without proper rehabilitation serious problems, such as chronic pain, swelling, weakness and more severe fracture, could arise further limiting your ability to perform your usual activities.
Your physical therapist will select from treatments including:
Range-of-motion exercises. Because you have been less mobile over the past few weeks, your range of motion may have decreased. A physical therapist teaches you how to perform safe and effective exercises to restore full movement in the joints of your legs.
Muscle-strengthening exercises. Even short-term inactivity weakens the muscles of the legs, increasing the potential for new injuries. Additionally, your stress fracture may have been related to some underlying weakness in the legs. Your physical therapist can determine which strengthening exercises are right for you based on the severity of your injury and where you are in your recovery.
Body awareness and balance training. Specialized training exercises help your muscles “learn” to respond to changes in your environment, such as uneven or unstable surfaces. When you are able to put full weight on your foot without pain, your physical therapist may prescribe these exercises to help you return to your normal activities. For instance, you might learn how to stand on 1 leg or stand on a wobble board, with or without your eyes closed, to challenge the muscles in your legs.
Functional training. When you can walk freely without pain, your physical therapist may begin “progressing” your treatment program to include activities that you were doing before your injury. This program will begin with slow, progressive weight-bearing activities, such as hopping and light jogging. Your physical therapist will create your own unique training program, based on the therapist’s examination of your legs, your goals, and your activity level and general health.
Activity-specific training. Depending on the requirements of your job or the type of sports you play, you might need additional rehabilitation tailored for your job or sport. Your physical therapist can develop a program that takes all of these demands as well as your specific injury into account.