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Stress fractures or hairline fractures are caused by the inability of  bones to adapt to the increasing stress and are due to overuse of  the bones. These fractures commonly occur in the long weight bearing bones of the leg - tibia/fibula and metatarsals. The muscles in the leg cannot absorb the stress caused by repeated impact and transmit the stress to the bones.

The stress fracture appears gradually. It is common in people who lead a sedentary lifestyle and suddenly start exercising. Sportspersons participating in high impact sports like athletics, basketball or tennis also suffer from stress fracture. Women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and increases the chances of  stress fracture. Incorrect sport shoes which do not cushion the body and hard surface for impact sports can cause stress fracture

Symptoms of  stress fracture are tenderness to touch at the site of the fracture which is just at the top of  the foot. The pain develops gradually, increases which doing high impact exercises like running and jogging and decreases with rest.  Since the cracks are very tiny, X-rays do not detect a stress fracture till they start to heal, so a CT or MRI scan may be required.

The only cure for stress fracture is by resting and avoiding impact sports,  to allow the affected area to heal. Wearing protective footwear and or switching to low impact sports like swimming and cycling also reduces the strain. Having a healthy diet which includes calcium and Vitamin D will increase the bone strength. Calf and shin muscle can be strengthened by doing suitable exercises, so that they are they can absorb the stress caused by impact sports. The activity level for various exercises should be increased gradually.

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