The metatarsal bones are the long bones in your foot that connect your ankle to your toes. A stress fracture is a break in the bone that happens with repeated injury or stress. Stress fractures are caused by overly stressing the foot when using it in the same way repeatedly.
A stress fracture is different from an acute fracture, which is caused by a sudden and traumatic injury.
Stress fractures are common in people who:
Pain is an early sign of a metatarsal stress fracture. The pain may occur:
Over time, the pain will be:
The area of your foot where the fracture is may be tender when you touch it. It may also be swollen.
An x-ray may not show there is a stress fracture for up to 6 weeks after the fracture occurs. Your doctor may order a bone scan or MRI to help diagnose it.
You may wear a special shoe to support your foot. If your pain is severe, you may have a cast below your knee.
It may take 4 to 12 weeks for your foot to heal.
It is important to rest your foot.
For pain, you can take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
As you recover, your doctor will examine how well your foot is healing. The doctor will tell you when you can stop using crutches or have your cast removed. Also check with your doctor about when you can start certain activities again.
You can return to normal activity when you can perform the activity without pain.
When you restart an activity after a stress fracture, build up slowly. If your foot begins to hurt, stop and rest.
Call your doctor if you have pain that does not go away or gets worse.
Broken foot bone; March fracture; March foot; Jones fracture
Smith MS. Metatarsal fractures. In: Eiff PM, Hatch R, eds. Fracture Management for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 15.
McCormack RG, Lopez CA. Commonly encountered fractures in sports medicine. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2014:chap. 13.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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