Is Your Foot Or Leg Pain A Fracture?

Is Your Foot Or Leg Pain A Fracture?


Whether your pain has come on suddenly and intensely, or is still more of a discomfort that has been building up over time, you may have a fracture. This blog will teach you how to differentiate the two types of lower limb fractures we see so you can get the best results.


We’re not sure what everyone has been doing recently, but we’ve been booked up with fractures recently! While everyone may be familiar with a regular bone-breaking fracture, many of our patients have recently been surprised to learn that they’ve sustained a fracture because of their gradual onset of pain and symptoms. This is precisely where it’s important to understand the difference between the two different types of fractures that you can sustain – and that’s where we come in!


The Standard Fracture

Also referred to as ‘breaking’ a bone in your foot, the standard fracture is typically a result of falls and direct injuries to the body. You’ll feel:

  • A sudden and significant pain following a specific event (e.g. a fall, getting hit with a ball, etc)
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected area


Because there are many ways that a bone can break, some of which aren’t ‘clean’ breaks, it’s important to get to your doctor (or even ER room) immediately following the incident so they can set the bone in the correct position and reduce your risk of unfavourable long-term consequences. You may also have suffered injuries to the surrounding muscles or tissues – so these need to get assessed too.

Until you see a health professional, make sure to avoid any movements that cause pain and make sure to rest the foot, gently apply ice and elevate the injured leg to help reduce the swelling. More than likely, you’ll get placed in a moon boot or cast, which as frustrating as it may seem, is very important to ensure good healing and repair instead of discomfort for the years to come. There is always a risk of developing arthritis following bony injuries, so taking care to minimise this risk is important. In severe cases, you may require surgery.


The Stress Fracture

Unlike standard fractures, stress fractures are not linked to an event or accident. They are instead linked to overuse, meaning that it’s repetitive stress and pressure on a bone over time that results in tiny hairline cracks that worsen with time and more use – as does the pain. They feel like:

  • Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 3.40.08 pmPain, that may start as a mild discomfort and progress to severe pain
  • Localised tenderness
  • Pain is exacerbated by weight bearing or physical activity
  • Pain settles with rest


You’re more likely to sustain stress fractures if you’re involved with high-impact or repetitive activities (e.g. running), as well as:

  • A sudden increase in training intensity
  • Poor foot biomechanics or alignment issues
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Increased weight
  • Malnutrition
  • Decreased bone density

Stress fractures can affect any bone and tend to be more common at the metatarsals (the long bones of the feet) and the tibia (shin bone).

If you suspect that you have developed a stress fracture, you need to see your podiatrist immediately. There are numerous causes of pain and tenderness over a bone and stress fracture or not, it needs to be treated effectively so you can get the best outcomes and not make the injury any worse!

Like a standard fracture, the first thing you can start doing at home is following the PRICE principles (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation) to help reduce your painful symptoms.


The goal of your treatment will then be to facilitate the healing and repair of the stress fracture and address the cause to reduce the risk of it happening again. To achieve this, we must find out the exact reason(s) that your stress fracture developed, and address each cause while allowing the bone to heal. This is why each patient’s management plan will vary to meet their needs and lifestyle, but generally may include:

  • Moon boot if the fracture is significant and total off-loading is required
  • Laser treatment (our secret weapon) to speed up recovery as it has been clinically proven to accelerate healing in bone injuries
  • Orthotics to address any biomechanical and alignment issues of the feet and legs that may be resulting in increased stress through specific bones
  • Footwear assessment to ensure the shoes are helping and not hindering recovery, and are not causing increased loading through certain bones
  • Activity modification to avoid activities that will overload the same bone and cause more damage during recovery
  • Stretching tight muscles and joints and strengthening weakened muscles that may have contributed to the development of the stress fracture


If you’re experiencing pain in your feet or legs and are unsure of the cause or think that you may have sustained a fracture, we highly recommend you coming in and getting an assessment from one of our fantastic Podiatrists. We love helping our patients feel great on their feet and keeping them healthy and active!


For more information or to book in, give our team a call on 1300-FX-FEET or book online here.

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