Stress Fractures

Overview of Stress Fractures

A stress fracture is an overuse injury. The overuse can be due to training errors, such as too much exercise, insufficient rest, inappropriate surfaces, or poor equipment. It occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Over time, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone underneath causing a small crack or microfracture called a stress fracture.

Most stress fractures occur in the weight bearing bones of the lower leg and the foot. They can also occur in the pelvis and spine. Stress fractures are more common in female athletes, especially those individuals with inadequate diets or menstrual dysfunction.

As a chronic process, stress fractures may require 2 weeks to visualize on X-Ray films.

When an X-Ray is negative and a stress fracture is strongly suspected, a bone scan might need to be obtained. 

Signs & Symptoms

Tenderness or pain before or early in exercise. 


  • Gradually increase the participation time of any new sports activity.
  • Try alternating the days in which you participate in the sports activity.
  • Use proper equipment.
  • When pain or swelling occurs, stop the activity and rest for several days. 


The most important treatment is rest from the activity that caused the stress fracture. It usually takes around six to eight weeks to heal. 

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.