It’s Broken: Stress Fracture

feet Earlier this week I awoke in the middle of the night with foot pain. I swung my feet out of bed to head for the bathroom and stood up. I immediately crumpled to the floor as pain shot through my left foot. Though I tried to be quiet my husband who has paramedic training awoke  and sprang into action.

So there we sat in the moonlight with my foot in a bucket of cold water and ice cubes. We discussed how much we hoped my foot wasn’t fractured but knew it probably was. Two days and a set of x-rays later confirmed our hunch was correct.  It’s broken.  I have a stress fracture – a broken foot.

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone and most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot. Stress fractures of the foot are also called marcher’s foot, due to of the high incidence of occurrence in military recruits. Stress fractures are also common in ballet dancers, gymnasts, athletes, and others who spend a lot of time on their feet.

Predisposing factors are stress fractures in adjacent bones, neuropathic disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Insufficiency stress fractures result when the bone itself is weak due to conditions like osteoporosis reduce bone strength and density.

Foot pain is severe and it’s very difficult to walk. The pain from stress fractures run along the long bones that lead to your toes. The foot is swollen and red and if you press on the fracture area, even slightly the pain intensifies. When the bone shaft is examined and pressed on the  sides, the experience is stabbing pain.

Stress fracture treatment

In cases of stress fracture like mine  a removable plastic cast is better than a plaster cast, as it can be removed for physiotherapy treatment, which is aimed at preventing stiffness in the ankle joint. Mine is a blue boot and I’m now the owner of a collapsible cane. My physiotherapy won’t start for a couple of weeks.

It usually takes 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. Stress fractures in the fifth metatarsal bone (on the outer side of the foot) like mine take longer to heal. So I won’t be walking, hiking or dancing for a couple of months.

I’m keeping my foot elevated most of the time. The ice bath was effective to help with pain relief and reduce swelling, immediately following the stress fracture and I’m keeping that up. I’m using ice packs for 20 – 30 minutes every 2 – 3 hours help with the pain. But the pain is so intense that I have been taking Motrin so I can get some sleep.

footBody talk

My body has been telling me to take a break and now I have no choice — I’m broken.  My to-do list has become my can’t do list. I am exhausted and easily irritated. But I did manage to get 3 draft posts underway and I do expect to publish one tomorrow, if all goes well.

Update: May 12, 2011  Re: X-ray results – 3 broken foot bones. Two breaks in the 5th metatarsal bone and one in each of the 4th and 3rd metatarsal bones. I’m now using Comfrey and Plantain poultices every day, usually twice daily and they do provide some relief. Thank goodness.


  1. […] I love feeling the earth beneath my feet. I love being on the beach and feeling the sand between my toes too.  I go barefoot at least part of every day year round as my physio recommends it. It’s her opinion that we are crippling our feet with ill fitting shoes and we need to focus more on heaving healthy feet as we age. I became foot focused one year ago this month due to stress fractures. […]

  2. I’m backtracking here, as I didn’t read all this and three bones in one foot is a lot to break in one go and the pain must be horrendous. I thought of you when I practiced tai chi this morning, at the moment we are trying to do this thing where you lift your foot off the ground in a completely flat plane and support it with chi just above the ground, imagining that you can feel the grass tickling the soles of your feet before placing it very gently and flatly on the ground and only then slowly transferring the weight into it – I find this very very hard to do but interesting. I do hope that you mend beautifully xx Joanna

    • @Joanna,
      The pain was pretty bad indeed. I don’t usually take pharmaceutical drugs but I said “yes” to motrin. So I have three meta tarsal bones that are brohen. The 5th, 4th and 3rd. The 5th has 2 breks and the other teo each have one. They are healing slowly and my temperament seems to be moving towards the positive pole. It’s good to hear from you. :)

  3. Okay, I’ve read your (informative) post, and am sorry to hear you have a stress fracture. Life is just one challenge after another, and at times it’s easy to be discouraged.

    But you are strong and will get past this, TiTi, and the coming of summer will help with your pain and to feel renewed in spite of the injury. Get better fast!

  4. Hi Timethief
    What a resourceful and thoughtful husband you have, solving practical problems, I’m lucky in that respect too.

    Mr T is absolutely beautiful and I can see that he knows exactly what’s going on and is very wise. He’s a lovely colour and has a wonderful coat, the grooming does you credit. I understand exactly what you mean about how special he is because we feel that about Max. His colouring is wolf sable and now that his coat has matured it’s a very striking orange, black and cream, with a lovely cream tail. Chihuahuas are great little dogs too, and they were second on my shortlist. Who knows, we may yet adopt one.

    Thank you for posting that lovely photo, he is gorgeous and so happy looking too.
    I hope the pain in your foot is easing and that you’re coping well.

    • The swelling is down and the pain only happens when I stand on it — stabbing pain that makes me want to shriek! I’m glad you liked the photo. :)

  5. A broken foot sounds really nasty. I’ve been lucky so far, 30ish years and the only thing I’ve broken is a toe, several times and always the same one, but at least it was just a toe.

    • A broken toe sounds painful to me. Mind you in the state I’m in everything sounds painful. But to have broken the same toe more than once must have been awful. Are you a soccer player? I thought you were a cat tamer. ;)

      • I was just an incredibly clumsy youth, forever stubbing my toes on chair legs, table legs, door frames and anything else both solid and inanimate. A couple of times I must have done it really hard. I think it’s just coincidence that it was the same foot each time (or my depth/distance perception on that side is wonky – could be, I am supposed to wear specs). It did hurt a lot but at the time but I was walking again after a few days. In fact, one time I did it when on holiday and my partner (at that time) didn’t believe me and guilted me into spending the whole day walking (hobbling) around a zoo! Which is probably why it took much longer to heal that time.

  6. TiTi! What in heaven’s name are you doing? Your post was most excellent and as usual, you are always well informed. The white and green made the post easy on the eye.

    Hugs from the East Coast. Follow the doctors orders. :)

  7. Titi (Do you mind if I call you that? My mother’s side is Spaniard and Basque, so that’s what I call all of them, and one of them I love so dearly, she’s my second mom.)
    Re: Google Ad Probe & Facebook Security in your other blog.
    This is such an important and well-outlined issue. I’m always reminding people on Facebook to check their settings at least once a month. Also, many don’t read the EULA, and in FB and Twitter, your image can be used by anyone. I found out that I loved some kind of Fruit Drink, and I’m Type I Diabetic. FB wrote I was developing an app for them, but i was evaluating software for the disabled community.

    I don’t know if I told you, but butter bones is my new name. I broke my hip simple by sitting for 19 hours, and fell softly from my chair. The next a.m., though, and I couldn’t move at all. My point: if I can, I’d like to write a brief outline, and recommend people come here to read your post. These issues are essential to our liberties, and it’s the kind of thing I take time. So, if I can do it, would you be amenable to that? (Obviously, with attribution; I would only give a general idea, and why it’s so important, and have the back link set. Email me and let me know, please. No rush though; I’m walking slower than the tortoise. Sweet tides, Linda

    • Hi there,
      TiTi is fine with me as many people use it. :)

      I read through tonnes of stuff on those priavcy and security issues and posted a nutshell synopsis from the best sources I could find. It’s been a real challenge to remain focused enough to read as I’m tired and in pain too. Please feel free to link to the sources in my post on onecoolsite.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your hip Linda. That must be very painful. I hope it heals well and quickly too.

      I’m not well enough to remain up for much longer as I’m also experiencing a fibro flare-up. Best wishes to you and thanks for your concern.

  8. Big hug, Timethief. For what it’s worth, after I broke a foot and had surgery I was put on total bedrest for 10 weeks. In restrospect, it was the best 10 weeks of my life – calm and productive both mentally and materially (knit 5 jumpers!). Re osteoporosis – are you familiar with Leslie Kenton’s book, Passage to Power? It’s about menopause, but she has a lot of information about osteoporosis in there – what it is, how it happens, how to reverse it. Worth taking a look, though I devoutly hope you won’t need the information after all. Take care.

    • Hi there,
      I’m not familiar with the book but I have been on an osteoporosis prevention regime for years now. That’s why my doctor and I are surpised about the fracture and why I have been re-tested and a specialist is now becoming involved. I may have to get prescriptions for drugs used to both prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. But I don’t know if that’s the case yet or not. I’m still waiting for more test results to come in.

    • Hi Jean,
      It’s a little better today. I got a few hours of sleep last night. To answer your question, when a stress factor is not due to an injury then the likely source is osteporosis, despite the fact my bone density test is not indicating this. Hence the second round of testing. “Osteoporosis literally leads to abnormally porous bone that is compressible, like a sponge. This disorder of the skeleton weakens the bone and results in frequent fractures (breaks) in the bones. Osteopenia is a condition of bone that is slightly less dense than normal bone but not to the degree of bone in osteoporosis.”

      You have lived in BC Jean and you can appreciate what 3 days of ferry travel to and from Vancouver Island was like, how much it cost, and what a toll it took on me. I’m exhausted.

  9. Hey there. Sorry about the foot, especially since it obviously took you by surprise. You are absolutely right how sometimes we take things for granted. I can certainly relate to that and to the parts of my body I temporarily “lost” over my lifetime. Let me ask you: what’s the first thing you’ll do when you get back on your feet? :-)

    Sorry also for my reply the other day on the forums. I guess I’m still getting used to socializing on the forums after all ;-)

    • It will be a gradual recovery and I’m cheered to hear that even old bones can mend well. The timing isn’t so very terrible because by summer time when I like to hike, walk, beachcomb, dance, etc. it will be healed.

      I have no memory of any forum reply. :s

  10. Hi tt, Sorry to hear about that and I hope it heals well.

    2yrs ago on my birthday after just having been pooed on by a bird of which I said “thats good luck” I broke the exact same bone by falling down the curb.

    My advice would be to keep using the foot as much as possible with plenty of rest inbetween…one day you will find yourself running down the street again and thinking “oh..i’m running” and that will put a smile on your face.

    • Wow! You have had the same injury. I can’t bear weight on my foot for long. It’s too swollen from toes to above the ankle, and the pain is like my foot is being stabbed. My doctor says the results of the x-ray I got yesterday may reveal more than one break. I think he may be right because the fourth and third metatarsal bones hurt too. :(

      I’m dancing in my dreams. :)

  11. Hey tt, seems like you’re still pushing along despite having to use a cane! You’re a pillar of strength and endurance even if sometimes irritable and impatient (according to you :)).

    I wonder, have you thought about what the metaphysical reason/cause and potential benefit of this *impediment* might be?

    • Hi TBT,
      I have crutches too and they are somewhat better than the cane in some situations. I’m mostly sitting today keeping my foot elevated and I also soaked it in cold water and ice twice today. No I have not considered metaphysical causation. I have had so little sleep for nearly a week now that I’m not thinking clearly. But this too will pass.

  12. Hello Timethief

    As I’m sure you’re aware, rest and sleep are probably nature’s most therapeutic remedies when we are feeling stressed or sick, so it’s my hope that you’re able to sleep well and feel peaceful inside, as well as listen to healing music in quiet times. Have you come across the EFT therapy in your research? It’s a facial tapping technique, which I use when stressed and it seems to help. It’s also used to suppress pain. I’m not sure how or why it works, perhaps it’s just a distraction technique, or a focus on removing pain, but it’s easy to do and quite an enjoyable feeling.

    Thanks for your kind comments, the photo was taken last July on my birthday. The flowers were all yellow and white as those are my favourite floral colour combinations – sunflowers, daisies, roses, lilies, chrysanthemums and marigolds.

    Max our little Pomperson is an absolute joy. He is exactly one year old, a complete character, utterly comical and very attentive and intelligent. I think you’ll agree that there aren’t enough superlatives to describe a Pomeranian. He is full of happiness and every day makes me laugh with his sheer exuberance, his love of life and his utter joy when he’s with me. He too loves to be groomed every day for around 45 minutes. The Pomeranian is a breed I’ve never owned before, but is by far the cutest and sweetest I’ve ever come across (for me at any rate). I’d love to see a photo of Mr T. as I haven’t come across one in your blog.

    Hoping today is a relaxed and quiet day for you.
    Sending Healing thoughts your way.

    • Hi Crystal,
      My husband came up with a way to keep my foot from having the weight of the comforter on it while I sleep and I did get more sleep last night. He cut two sides out of a cardboard cartoon and put it on the bed over my foot and under the comforter. When I’m feeling better I’ll look into EFT. If you find it helpful I may find it helpful too.

      My Pomeranian is 3 and is the first one of this breed we have every owned. We absolutely love this dog. That’s not to say that we don’t love the girls (Chihuahuas) because we do but he’s very special and he gets along great with them too.

      P.S. This picture does not do him justice. His mane and feathers and tail are cream colored and he’s not as dark red as the picture depicts. His coat hangs to his ankles all the way around.

  13. Warm wishes from me too. I hope it doesn’t take too long to heal. The healing time is a long time as quoted and as we get older we take longer to heal, I understand.

    Take care of yourself.

    • Hi there Robyn,
      I was cheered when I heard that even old bones heal well. If they take a little longer … oh well. I will do what I need to do and not let this get me down. Albiet it’s hard not to feel a wave of guilt when I see my husband doing all the yardwork. Thi is not a small property and there is lots of work to do out there like fence mending, etc. Thanks for your well wishes. :)

  14. ah! i might eventually have a stress fracture on my right foot, as most of my weight depends on it. I don’t put too much weight on my left foot because of my knee injury… :S i’m so fragile… -____- I do hope you’d be fine soon Timethief! :P

    • We are sure a pair aren’t we. lol :D I hope your knee is healing well. I know what you mean by the possibility of compensation injury. When you can’t use one leg the other takes all the weight. Do be careful not to overdo.

  15. OUCH! It sounds very, very painful, and I’m sorry you’re going through this! (((( )))) I personally would be very irritable if it were me especially because I wouldn’t have any help with my precious doggy or to put food on a plate – am grateful you have such a good husband!

    • The combination of pain and travel which intensifies pain and exhaustion did make me irritable. I’m glad I noticed the feeling before it manifested in words. I’m grateful I have such a terrfic husband. He’s a keeper for sure. ;)

  16. I hope you get well, up and running in no time! And this is such a nice attempt at helping those who have no idea what to do in such situations!

  17. Hey TT, nothing like enforced rest! I send wishes for a smooth and quick recovery and fantastic use of this healing time you have been given.

    My daughter had the same thing recently and besides the things that you’ve mentioned, she was on homoeopathic arnica and symphytum (remedy for broken bones). Helped her immensely. If it resonates with you, check with your body and ask if it would help …..

    • Hello Catherine,
      I’m tuned into my body right now and doing what provides relief and promotes healing. Thanks for the tip on homoeopathic arnica and symphytum. Your timing is perfect as I have an appoinment with my naturopath at week’s end to discuss what she recommends. Hope you are well.

  18. Hi timethief,

    Well thank you for that very informative article, which would have been a little less painful to read if it did not connect directly to you. I wish you a swift recovery and looking to all the great articles you’ll have time to write while you recover. That sounds a little selfish on my part doesn’t it?

    But I do mean it. A swift recovery to you.


    • Hi Nick,
      Not to worry. I know what you mean. I have a habit of intellectualizing when I’m in pain. As I sat there listening to my doctor and husband go on about my foot and treating stress fractures I realized I had no knowledge of bones in the foot. I was grateful that they both did. Thanks for the well wishes and best wishes to you.

  19. Your hubby sounds very sweet to be picking you up and carrying you. You must not procrastinate getting lots of rest.

    My foot is always elevated when I blog because I have a small end table near bye just for that purpose. But then I have terrible posture, because Im slouching, sitting sideways, in a stuffed rocker, feet on table, and keyboard in lap. That could explain why I misspell so often. :)

    When I do my anti-toxicity meditations, Ill also remember some healing light for your bones.

    • Hi there,
      He is sweet but as he now has all kinds of stuff to do because I can’t I won’t be pushing the envelope. The last thing we need is to fall while carrying me up or down the stairwell.

      Resting is something I’m getting good at. I need rest and recover from grinding my teeth when the stabbing foot pain happens. I have a carton set up now under my computer desk for my foot to rest on right now.

      Please do sending me some healing light.

  20. TT-so sorry to hear you have a stress fracture of the 5th metatarsal. Stress fractures are common injuries in gymnastics, and everything you said above accurately describes cause and treatment. My daughter had one, and it took about seven weeks to heal. The pain should reduce as the swelling subsides, and then it’s just a matter of patience. The 5th metatarsal unfortunately has a poor blood supply, and that’s why a stress fracture there tales longer to heal. For exercise, you could use a stationary bike or even walk on a treadmill once there’s less pain. Hopefully, you’ll be back to new by the time summer rolls around.

    • H Marty,
      My doctor and my husband gave me a crash course in stress fractures and their treatment. I took notes in the same little moleskin I use to draw ny mandalas in and they both chuckled when I did that. Right now summer seems far away and 8 weeks seems like a very long time. I can’t stand on my foot for any length of time at all and I have been instructed not to. I’m really looking forward to the pain subsiding. I’m so tired and I need some sleep. :(

  21. Oh dear me..that must be so painful…but it’s good to have your knight in shining armour around to give the first aid. I hope you’ll get well soon. i know it is frustrating.

    I woke up one day, 3 years ago, and discovered a burning pain in my right toe…i suspected it was just a sprain from the basketball game i played the day before so i just tried to massage it and put some cream to ease the pain. It swelled the following day so i was bit alarmed, went to my doctor and he implied at first the need to have my blood tested for my urate level.

    The result proved it was arthritis and a severe form of gouty.

    I suffered it a lot when it attacks me..i am now on my regular medication. and it frsutrates me really because there many things to avoid like some foods, and the constraints it gives me now to do what i normally do before. But i am’s just so painful when it strikes.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about the gout. It’s truly a nasty form of arthritis and I empathize, of course. It’s so good to hear you do have effective treatment. Best wishes for an attack free spring and summer too.

  22. TT, I am really sorry to hear about your injury. It is strange to happen not as a result of injury. I hope you will make the best of your break induced break, and heal quickly.

  23. Oh… Noooo…. just when it’s getting pretty outside too.. I am so sorry about your foot. Yikes. I never thought of osteoporosis especially never thought about it affecting the feet. I hope your pain dies down quickly and the healing is fast and you are up and running again soon.

    • Hi K,
      I’m so tired. We spent the whole day on the big island and on the ferries between. I was x-rayed and bone density tested again and then I had a dental appointment. I surprised by the foot and osteoporosis connection too. I always connected it with the spine. Anyway, my doctor says some people with osteoporosis develop stress fractures of the feet while just walking, or stepping off a curb, or twisting an ankle. I have twisted my ankles when I was younger but that was nothing like this. My foot is broken … geeesh :( We shall see what the test results are but the treatment is what I’m focused on now.

  24. I am so sorry! I’ve had stress fractures before. Take this time to relax and throw away the to-do list and breathe.
    Best wishes for a speedy comeback!

    • Hi Janelle,
      This is so painful and as you have had stress fractures you know what I mean. I’m hoping that part will subside soon. Thanks for your well wishes. :)

  25. sorry to hear you had such painful experience and still enduring the consequence. i am glad you husband was helpful, and you also have good understanding on this illness. please put your to-do lists on side and take a good rest.

    • The only thing I have on my to-do list at present is recover from this. The ice and cold water do relieve some of the swelling and that helps. Well, okay maybe blogging is on my to-do list but I’m not going to tax myself. I’m really exahusted.

    • Hello sprigblossoms,
      I will definitely be focused on resting, healing, and sending my foot lots of loving vibes. Thanks so much for your kind words.

    • Hello Janene,
      On the upside I did manage to complete my contracted work last Tuesday. That was the night when I woke up with the fractured foot. I won’t be taking on any more work until my foot is much better. It simply hurts too much to be able to concentrate for long periods of time. So if my grumpiness was seeping out last week then I apologize.

      I shall be monitoring my pain and avoiding doing anything that makes it worse. These fractures heal well when we stay off the foot and get physio for the ankle joints.

      What I am doing is taking little breaks to sit in my greenhouse with my foot elevated. I can manage to get down the stairs by using a cane on one side and the banister on the other. It’s a slow journey down and up, but when my husband is around he simply picks me up and packs me up or down the stairs. It’s a good thing I’m little an don’t weigh a lot. lol :D

  26. I am SO sorry to hear about your fracture! Please rest easy and heal soon. I agree – your body wants you to slow down……. Relax and let those around pamper you. I wish I had magic words to make it all better, I don’t, but I’m in your corner pulling for you!

    • Thank so much for the healing thoughts and encouragement too. I’ve been tossed off horses many times and have suffered a skull fracture when my helmeted head smashed into a fence. I have even had my feet stepped on but I was wearing reinforced paddock boots and my foot bones did not break. So waking up in the middle of the night to a broken foot 6 years after my last horses went to their final rest was a mind bending experience. I will be relaxing and that’s a good thing as I have been spread too thin since the new year began.

  27. Hello Timethief

    I’m really sorry to hear this news because I’m sure that, apart from the associated pain, it must have come as a shock to you to happen suddenly like this. It’s probably also worrying that it now forces a change in routine and prevention of normal functions, leading to frustration and exhaustion.

    However, with your agile mind I’m sure you will take this unwanted event as an opportunity to rest your body, whilst sharpening your mind on other issues. And day by day, you will adapt to the new situation and find yourself coping in unexpected ways.

    On a practical level, do wear good quality supporting athletic shoes if possible and I’m sure you know the importance of the physiotherapy exercises when the time comes to do those. In the meantime, resting with the foot elevated is the very best way to ensure it mending sooner rather than later.

    For now, that to-do list has been taken off you, and whilst it might be annoying, no longer having the urgency of that list is probably a good thing in ways that are not apparent just yet.

    Sending you healing vibes.

    • Hello Crystal,
      Experiencing a fracture when I haven’t had an accident resulting in an injury was hard to get my mind around. But the fact is my bone just collapsed and that may mean that my bone density is breaking down. I really hadn’t considered my feet as targets for osteoporosis. As I have a spinal bone disease that’s where I would have expected it to manifest.

      On a practical level I have been wearing sensible and supportive shoes for years now. However, the swelling means I cannot get my foot into any of my shoes save for one pair. Most of the time my foot is elevated, or in a protective boot, or in a bucket of ice water.

      I tore up my To-Do List and tossed th fragments into the air-tight wood stove just before I created and published this post. I cope with annoying chronic pain almost every day and this addition of intense pain is a reminder that this container I dwell is aging. So now I will learn how to send it loving vibes.

      Thanks for the healing vibes.

      P.S. I like clicking on your hovercard and seeing you with those lovely flowers and your Pomeranian. Your dog is so cute. I love the dark hair that looks like a bandit mask. I love my Pomeranian big time. Mr. T is the most joyful and yet laid back dog I have ever owned. He’s precious and has such a great temperament that everyone admires him. Pomeranian owners always remark on his coat as it’s outstanding. Grooming is a 45 minute job every day and I love doing it.

    • Hi Jay,
      YEOWTCH! for sure. My foot hurts a lot. No walking, hiking, or dancing is on my agenda for the next couple of months. Even walking from one room to another is painful so and I’m becoming quite good at hopping.

  28. timethief,

    I’m so, so sorry that you have this injury. I hope some benefit will come out of the next period of limited activity to compensate for all the pain and distress. This article was very informative. Thanks very much. Wishing you swift and perfect healing.

    • Hi Sandra,
      I confess that I have always taken my feet for granted. I knew next to nothing about the structure of the foot or stress fractures until this past week. My doctor gave me a crash course in caring for my foot and I realize I need to focus on sending it lots of loving energy.

      Today I’m off to the big island for more x-rays and tests as my doctor suspects I may be developing osteoporosis ie. the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time.

      I have to spend a lot of time with my foot elevated and that means less time in front of my monitor. So I will be backing way from answering forum questions and devoting the time I do have when I’m up to blogging.

      Thanks for your visit and comment.

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