Should I see a bone doctor for a hairline fracture?

hairline fracture
Unfortunately, people sometimes fail to take an injury seriously. They might suffer a hairline fracture, for example, and believe that time will heal the injury.

However, ignoring a hairline fracture, also known as a stress fracture, can be a grave mistake. Without treatment, the bone could break completely. If that happens, the healing time make take much longer and require more complicated treatment.

Don’t take chances with a hairline fracture. Contact an experienced bone doctor to schedule an appointment. Island Musculoskeletal Care MD, PC can examine the injury and offer a diagnosis and course of treatment.

What is a hairline fracture and what are the treatments?

A hairline fracture is a small crack or bruise within a bone. Athletes are prone to these injuries. Often, running or jumping could result in a hairline fracture in the foot bones, including the heel, ankle or bones at the top of the foot (navicular). The injuries can be painful, but in some cases can be hard to notice. There may be a dull pain that develops over time. Symptoms of a hairline fracture include the following:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising

The injuries often are a result of overuse or repetitive activities. An increase in the frequency of or the duration of an activity could increase the risk of an injury. Runners, for example, might sustain a hairline foot fracture after increasing the number of miles or the number of times they run per week.

Who is at risk of getting injured?

The following are groups that face higher risks of bone injuries:

  • Athletes who engage in high-impact activities, such as running, ballet dancing, track and field, baseball, football, basketball, tennis and gymnastics, among other pursuits
  • People with foot problems including those with high arches, rigid arches or flat feet
  • Individuals with bone conditions, including weakened bones from osteoporosis
  • Those with previous hairline fractures

In addition, other factors can increase risks:

  • Certain medications can affect bone density and strength
  • Use of improper sports equipment, such as poor running shoes
  • Changing playing surfaces, such as a tennis player who moves from a grass court to a hard court
  • Lack of nutrients from eating disorders or not getting enough vitamin D (which can be a risk during winter months)

How does a bone doctor diagnose a hairline fracture?

When you meet with the bone doctor, you will receive a physical examination. The doctor will inspect the injured area and will likely apply gentle pressure to see if it causes pain. The following tests may be administered:

  • MRI, which is an imaging test to detect hairline fractures
  • X-ray, which may not detect the hairline fracture immediately after the injury but could reveal the fracture sometime later, when a callus is formed
  • Bone scan, which involves receiving a small amount of radioactive material through a vein

Your doctor may recommend you follow the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You also may be advised to take pain medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.  In some cases, crutches or a cast are needed.

If you believe you suffered a hairline fracture, contact the board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Island Musculoskeletal Care MD, PC. Serving the five boroughs of New York City, our medical professionals are dedicated to providing patients with the best care possible to help them recover from their injuries.

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