Hairline or stress fractures are tiny cracks on a bone that often develop in the foot or lower leg. It is common for hairline fractures to occur as a result of sports that involve repetitive jumping or running. Hairline fractures usually develop gradually as a result of overuse, as opposed to larger bone fractures or breaks that are mostly caused by acute traumas, such as a fall. While hairline fractures may heal with sufficient rest, they can be painful and last several weeks. The most common treatment approach is rest.
Certain factors are associated with an elevated risk of developing hairline fractures, these include:
- Gender: Hairline fractures are more common in women, particularly those with irregular menstrual cycles.
- Anatomical abnormalities: Some abnormalities can intensify the strain on particular bones, such as having flat feet or high arches. This can also be exasperated by low quality or worn out footwear.
- Bone problems: Conditions that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis
- Previous hairline fractures: A hairline fracture causes the bone to be more susceptible to fractures reoccurring
- Diet imbalances: Weakened bones can develop from diets that lack nutrients essential to bone health, such as calcium or vitamin D, increasing the risk of hairline fractures occurring.
Hairline fractures are easily dealt with, but medical attention should be sought immediately to prevent the injury from worsening. Ignoring a hairline fracture can lead to a more serious fracture or break occurring, which is more difficult to treat.