What is a march fracture and how do you treat it?

Finding Your Feet When It Comes to March Fractures

We tend to take our feet for granted; to say that we use these appendages a lot would be quite the understatement. While durable, our feet aren’t impervious to damage and can experience stress fractures when overworked or fatigued.

The march fracture takes its name from the toil faced by trudging soldiers, but the condition affects civilians, too. Runners, hospital doctors, and ballet dancers are all common targets.

Unlike acute trauma, which can occur from a single incident, such as a car accident or falling down a flight of steps, march fractures are caused by repetitive micro-traumas. However, in some cases, they are the result of genetic factors, such as weakness of core muscles, limb length differences, and poor bone density.1

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, hairline breaks often occur in the metatarsal bones of the foot – specifically the 2nd and 3rd (the latter being classified as march fracture). Because these bones have a structure that is thinner and longer, they’re much more susceptible to damage.

The human body is an astounding, complex mechanism. Just as the cells within our body constantly turn over, or die and produce new cells, our bones are living tissues that “remodel” themselves as needed.

The body’s “construction company” is made up of osteoclasts, which break down old bone structures, and osteoblasts, which build new supportive bone. Hormones, age, and sub-par diets can all slow this process leaving people (especially athletes) vulnerable to fractures.

Is the top of your foot swollen and tender? Does physical activity exacerbate your foot pain? If you suspect you may have a march fracture, stop what you’re doing and keep your weight off the affected foot.

The first course of action is to contact a medical professional, specifically an orthopedic surgeon. The highly trained physicians at OrthoUnited are certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and provide a unique course of treatment for each patient.

Radiography, or X-rays, are the preliminary test for most fractures; however, they often fail to detect these ailments until the bones have shifted further during the weeks, or even months, after a break has occured.3 The American Academy of Family Physicians praises MRIs for their ability to pinpoint exact diagnoses of stress fractures. Harnessing the power of an intense magnetic field and radio waves, MRIs yield clear, detailed imaging of tissues. For this reason, they can identify fractures at a very premature stage.

If you’re diagnosed with a march fracture, do not fret. Your physician will most likely recommend getting plenty of rest and relaxation. During this time, bearing even your normal body weight can prevent the bone remodeling process, keeping you away from physical activities for longer.

Anti-inflammatory medications and an icing regimen can be extremely effective home remedies for reducing the swelling and tenderness associated with a march fracture. According to Mayo Clinic, 15-minute intervals of icing 3-4 times a day will minimize aches and pains.

Metatarsal fractures can sometimes require casting or air-splinting.3 Your doctor will assess your level of pain and recommend either crutches and a partial weight-bearing cast, or in more dire cases, a non-weight bearing cast.

Don’t overdo it! When recuperating from any injury, it’s imperative to ease your way back into high-impact activities. Modification is key; until you are completely healed, it’s best to choose low-impact activities such as swimming in lieu of weight-bearing activities, such as running. The professionals at OrthoUnited tout a combination of physical and aquatic therapy, as the buoyancy of water tends to relieve stress on the feet and legs.

Luckily, the outlook is positive for patients who follow their doctor’s orders. The National Institutes of Health states that non-surgical treatments work quite well for those who suffer from march fractures. Don’t delay treatment; the specialists at OrthoUnited offer a host of surgical and non-surgical treatments that can help you heal faster. Call us at (844) 469-2663 or request an appointment online to get your foot in the door.