Injury Update: Stress Fracture or Bone Bruise?

May 16, 2019

Have you taken a few days away from your running routine because you’re uncertain about an injury and can’t decide if it’s a stress fracture or a bone bruise? If so, you’re not alone. Not knowing the exact name of an injury prompt many road warriors to seek out urgent care or to go online and search for an “ER near me” to get answers to their questions.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Says the Two Are One and the Same

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has summed up these injuries as pretty much one and the same by stating that “a stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, or severe bruising within a bone.” Note the “severe bruising” in the description. The Academy goes on to say that in the case of running, these injuries are usually caused by an increase in activity, such as increasing distances too quickly.

Other Causes of Stress Fractures and Bone Bruises

Along with increased activity, stress fractures and bone bruises can present themselves from an improper running technique, which also lends to poor conditioning, poor quality running shoes, or a sudden and prolonged change in surface.

Most Common Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of the two conditions that warrant emergency care include:

  • Pain that diminishes after a rest period
  • Pain that manifests during normal, daily activities
  • Swelling on the top of the foot, the toes, or on the outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness to the affected area when its touched
  • External bruising is possible

Keep in mind that these symptoms are most commonly appear gradually as you’re applying weight to the affected area. Keep reading to learn about some first-aid treatment you can try at home before you head out to urgent care.

R-I-C-E is Your Friend

While waiting to receive medical treatment, you might want to try the R-I-C-E method of treatment at home:

Rest: Avoid weight-bearing activities

Ice: Apply ice for 20-minute intervals several times throughout the day

Compression: Lightly wrap the area to prevent additional swelling

Elevation: As you’re resting and icing your injury, keep your foot elevated higher than your heart

You can also use anti-inflammatory over-the-counter pain relievers to help manage the pain and keep swelling in check.

If the discomfort lingers beyond 24-36 hours, it is recommended that you seek medical care since the injury may need more intensive treatment to prevent it from becoming further damaged.