When you participate in a sport such as running, which has you on your feet hour after hour, it is not unusual for metatarsal stress fractures to occur. These small fractures in the metatarsal bones, which run along the top of your foot, generally heal without any complications. But you do need to put the time and effort into properly treating this injury and allowing it to heal. Here's how to do that.
1. Take time off.
Rest is the first and most important step in recovering from a metatarsal stress fracture. The fracture happened because the bone was being put under constant stress. If you continue to exercise on that ailing foot, the fracture will not heal. Your podiatrist will likely want you to spend as little time on your feet as possible for at least two weeks. Even after that, you will need to avoid running, jumping, and walking for more than a few minutes at a time for another 4-6 weeks. If you are worried about preserving your stamina and fitness at this time, talk to your doctor about pool running or using an elliptical. These low-impact activities might be okay, depending on the location and severity of your fracture.
2. Ice and elevate.
Especially for the first two or three weeks of recovery, you will want to take time to ice and elevate your foot a couple of times per day. Simply wrap an ice pack in a thin towel, set your foot on a footstool, and set the ice on your foot while you watch TV or read for about 20 minutes. The ice and elevation both help keep swelling down, which will help speed healing and also keep your foot more comfortable.
3. Take NSAIDs.
Your podiatrist will likely recommend that you take NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen, during the first few weeks of treatment. Take these medications as directed, even if you are not in pain. They are designed to also alleviate inflammation so your stress fracture heals properly.
4. Take steps to prevent additional injuries.
This is the part that comes later in the recovery process. When your podiatrist gives you the "all-clear" to return to exercise, you need to change your routine so you don't suffer another fracture. Stick to softer surfaces, increase your activity level slowly, and make sure you are stretching before and after every workout. Also have your podiatrist look at your shoes and tell you whether they are suited to your foot. Wearing the wrong shoes can contribute to stress fractures, too.
Recovering from a metatarsal stress fracture can be pretty straightforward as long as you take it easy and listen to your podiatrist's advice. For more information, contact a podiatrist who offers sport injury care.