ZocdocAnswersWhat is a stress fracture?

Question

What is a stress fracture?

Tweaked my ankle pretty bad hiking the other day. The higher part of my ankle hurts on the outside, but there isn't any swelling. Could this be a stress fracture?

Answer

Stress fractures are "hairline" fractures of weight bearing bones that are caused usually by repeated stress on the bone. The most common bones that get stress fractures are the bones of the feet, and they are most common in athletes, particularly runners and others engaged in higher impact sports. Based on the description you give, I would say that it is much more likely that what you have going on is an ankle sprain or strain. Sprains or strains occur when the ligaments surrounding joints are stretched or damaged when a joint is twisted (just as you describe). Sprains result in pain and sometimes swelling in the affected joint that should gradually subside with rest, elevation, ice, and an anti inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. If the pain is severe or worsening, then you should see your primary care doctor or go to the emergency room for a careful examination of the ankle. Although, based on the mechanism of your injury, it is unlikely that a bone has been broken, it is possible. An x-ray would be able to pick that up and would be an easy test to do if your doctor thinks it is necessary.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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