A stress fracture of the calcaneus is a hairline fracture of the big heel bone and is usually caused by overuse. It is common in soldiers who march long distances and road runners. Treatment involves resting for 6 to 8 weeks followed by a gradual return to full training and fitness.
Calcaneus stress fracture symptoms
Symptoms of a calcaneal stress fracture may be similar to that of a bruised heel. Pain will come on gradually over time and be made worse with weight-bearing activity such as running and jumping. A therapist may help diagnose the injury by squeezing the back of the heel from both sides which should reproduce the pain.
Calcaneal stress fracture explained
A calcaneal stress fracture is a hairline crack or fracture in the big heel bone. It is an overuse injury which was originally seen mostly in soldiers marching long distances carrying heavy weights. However, they are also seen in long-distance runners, ballet dancers and sports involving jumping. They are the second most common stress fracture of the foot after navicular stress fractures.
Often an X-ray of the injured bone will not show any sign of fracture until the fracture has actually started to heal which will be around 2 to 3 weeks later. It is possible that a stress fracture will not appear on an X-ray at all. Bones scans and MRI scans are more likely to be of assistance in diagnosing a calcaneal stress fracture.
Calcaneal stress fracture treatment
If a stress fracture of the calcaneus bone is suspected then complete rest is advised for 6 to 8 weeks. Use crutches if necessary but at least use a heel pad or cushioning insole to help protect the heel and allow it to rest.
It is important to maintain fitness by nonweight bearing activities such as swimming or cycling. See a sports doctor or professional practitioner who can confirm the diagnosis and advise on treatment.
In some cases, a plaster cast is applied for 2 - 6 weeks if the pain is severe. This will ensure complete rest. When the athlete does start back running they must ensure the muscles in the lower leg are stretched and supple. A gradual return to full training is important.