How Does a Stress Fracture Differ from a Regular Fracture?

Before explaining the difference between a stress fracture and a regular fracture, it’s important to explain that any type of fracture is a break in a bone. There are many types of fractures, however. Regular and stress fractures are common injuries, especially among athletes. 

Fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon Bryan King, MD, and his team at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Northport, Alabama, have extensive experience diagnosing and treating both stress fractures and regular fractures. Here, they explain the difference between the two injuries.

What is a bone fracture?

A bone fracture can refer to a bone that is entirely or partially broken apart. The bone can split into two or several pieces, describing various types of fractures. Most people break a bone in a car accident, a fall, or a sports incident. Additionally, osteoporosis can make people more prone to breaking a bone. 

Broken bones are common. About 2 million people break a bone every year, and, on average, everyone will break two bones in their lifetime. 

In some cases, you can recognize a bone fracture because you can see the bone sticking through your skin. This type of fracture is called an open fracture. However, not all fractures are open. Other signs that you have a broken bone include:

Your doctor can diagnose your injury with imaging such as an X-ray or MRI and a thorough examination.

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a micro-break or crack in the bone. It’s a common overuse injury among athletes. While a regular fracture is a traumatic injury that occurs immediately during impact, a stress fracture develops over time. 

Bones are tough but also have some flexibility. High-impact exercise or activity can lead to small cracks in your bones as this flexibility is put to the test. 

Stress fractures can occur anywhere, but they usually develop on weight-bearing bones such as your tibia, shin bone, heel, and foot bones. Runners, women, and older people are at higher risk of developing a stress fracture. 

Stress fracture symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness. Symptoms of a stress fracture worsen over time if not treated properly.

If you think you have a broken bone or a stress fracture, call Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute to make an appointment with Dr. King for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.  

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