The primary symptom of a stress fracture is pain and tenderness at the fracture site, though some stress fractures produce little to no symptoms at all until they progress to a more serious injury, such as a displaced fracture. 1 Wedro B. Stress fracture. eMedicineHealth.com. June 11, 2014:

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Symptoms of stress fracture include, but are not limited to:

Nagging, aching pain that is felt deep within the foot, toe, ankle, shin, hip, or arm. The exact source of the pain may be difficult to pinpoint, such as a general ache in the entire foot or lower leg. 1 Wedro B. Stress fracture. eMedicineHealth.com. June 11, 2014: Wedro B. Stress fracture. eMedicineHealth.com. June 11, 2014: Wedro B. Stress fracture. eMedicineHealth.com. June 11, 2014: American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Stress fracture. FootCareMD.com. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-midfoot/Pages/Stress-Fractures.aspx. Accessed December 23, 2014. , 3 Stress Fractures. The American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine. Available at http://www.acfaom.org/information-for-patients/common-conditions/stress-fractures. Accessed December 23, 2014.

Localized pain at night. Pain in a certain area, such as the foot, ankle, or hip that appears in the evening is often associated with stress fractures, even if the pain is not debilitating during sports activities. 2 American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Stress fracture. FootCareMD.com. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-midfoot/Pages/Stress-Fractures.aspx. Accessed December 23, 2014.

Pain that does not improve with rest or RICE protocol. Pain that resumes or remains constant despite taking time off to rest and/or using the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) protocol may be due to a stress fracture or other causes. 2 American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Stress fracture. FootCareMD.com. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-midfoot/Pages/Stress-Fractures.aspx. Accessed December 23, 2014.

Learn more: The P.R.I.C.E. Protocol Principles

Pain in the back or sides. Nagging pain in the trunk can sometimes be an indicator of stress fractures in the rib cage and/or sternum, which can occur in athletes who participate in sports such as rowing, tennis, or baseball.

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Pain that progressively worsens over time. Pain that starts out as a dull ache which once only appeared during sports activity but has become constant and debilitating may be an indication of a developing stress fracture. Another concern is when a young, healthy patient requires crutches because of lower-extremity pain that developed gradually, as this can be a sign of a stress fracture.

Pain that appears shortly after a change in activity. Nagging pain that appears within 7 to 10 days of a significant increase in strenuous activity—such as enrolling in military boot camp—is frequently associated with stress fractures.

See Diagnosing a Scapula Fracture

Because stress fractures often only improve with rest, any athlete who experiences symptoms that indicate a possible stress fracture is advised to take a break from sports activity and see a doctor trained in sports medicine for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

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