The initial treatment for a stress fracture is to elevate the extremity and rest while the bone heals itself. Ice the affected area for 24 to 48 hours and reduce your activity. For pain, you may use NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin. In rare cases, however, they may delay healing long term. Depending on which bone is involved, your doctor may recommend a splint or cast to immobilize the affected area.
When the swelling has decreased to the point you can see skin creases, you can begin partially putting weight on the area. In some cases, crutches or a cane is necessary. Usually you can begin full weight bearing at two weeks after the symptoms started. Weight bearing stimulates healing.
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For the next six to eight weeks -- or until you're free of pain -- avoid the activity that caused the stress fracture. If you exercise again too soon, you could delay the healing process. You could even cause damage that may never heal properly.
When you are ready to return to the activity, do it slowly. If you rush back in, you could re-injure yourself.
Very severe stress fractures that won't heal on their own may require surgery. Full recovery may take months or years.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons web site: "Stress Fractures."
Micheli, L. and Jenkins, M. The Sports Medicine Bible, 1995.
Sanderlin, B. American Family Physician, 2003; vol 68: pp 1527-32.