4 Things You Need To Know About Navicular Stress Fractures

The navicular bone is a small bone in your midfoot. It's located behind the metatarsal bones and makes up part of your arch. This bone can get fractured as a result of repeated stress from your favorite athletic activities. Here are four things you need to know about navicular stress fractures.

What are the signs of navicular stress fractures?

Stress fractures develop slowly in response to prolonged stress against a bone, so the pain will be mild at first, and will get worse later. At first, you'll feel mild pain, cramping, and tenderness in the arch of your foot. You may also feel pain in the top of your foot, just in front of your ankle.

At first, the pain may only occur during sports, but as time goes on, it will hurt all the time, even when you're resting. Eventually, trying to move your foot will be painful, and you may not be able to support your weight on the affected foot.

How do navicular stress fractures occur?

You can break your navicular bone during a variety of athletic activities. If you do martial arts, you may break this bone from the force of repeated kicking. Track and field athletes can break this bone after lots of sprinting or jumping.

Other athletes, like dancers or gymnasts, can also get stress fractures in this bone after lots of jumping and landing. People who are undergoing military training may develop stress fractures from marching or running.

How are they treated?

These fractures are treated with non-weight-bearing casts. You'll need to wear this cast for six to eight weeks, and when that cast comes off, you'll wear a weight-bearing boot for up to six weeks. Studies have shown that 86% of patients who are treated in this way are able to return to sports.

If you're still in pain after your cast comes off, you may need to have surgery. Surgery allows 73% of patients to get back to sports, so there's a good chance that you'll be able to keep playing your favorite sports once you're healed from surgery.

Are navicular fractures common?

Navicular stress fractures are a very common type of stress fracture. As many as 35% of athletic stress fractures may involve the navicular bone. These fractures are hard to see on x-ray images, so they may be more common than has been reported.

About one-fifth of track-and-field athletes have a stress fracture every year, and as many as 15% of these injuries are to the navicular bone. Military recruits have a similar incidence of this injury due to their training.

If your foot hurts and you're concerned that you have a navicular stress fracture, see a podiatrist (at centers like Coronation Physiotherapy) right away.