Does a hairline fracture need a cast

What is Hairline Fractures ?

Hairline fractures, also referred to as stress fractures are now slowly becoming an infamous dilemma in the area of sports medicine. It is caused by the application of repetitive strain and excessive training. Hairline Fractures are minute cracks on the bones, which can become severe if not treated immediately.

Basically this injury is caused by the depressed response of the bone with the ground-reaction forces that are applied to the bones during activities like jumping, running or walking. Despite that bones have the ability to bend a little if stress is applied on them, they can also develop small cracks if they are overused.

Symptoms of Hairline Fractures

Here are the symptoms for Hairline Fractures –

Gradual Pain

Pain develops gradually in patients. The pain is only present during instances of weight bearing and will go away at rest. It is different from an ankle sprain whereby pain is present throughout. In some patients with higher pain tolerances, they may not be able to feel this pain as the endorphins produced during activities can mask it, misleading the patients and result in more serious consequences.

Localised Swelling

During injuries, our body’s immune system will kick in. Chemical signals are released by the brain to widen capillaries which will result in increased blood flow to the injured area. The white blood cells will then fight against any infection present. This increase in fluid causes swelling which is visible on the outside and can be relieved through the use of ice packs or anti-inflammatory medication.

Reduced Pain when at rest

Another common symptom is the immediate reduction of pain experienced when at rest. This would mean that the injury sustained is not involving any muscle groups nor it is a major fracture. Patients suffering from hairline fractures will get immediate relief when they stop whatever activities they are doing.

Constant pain after continuous trauma

When patients ignore the doctors advice to rest and choose to continue playing, their condition can worsen and there is a high risk that the stress fracture has already evolved into a complete fracture. Pain can be felt throughout even when the patient is at rest.

How is Hairline Fractures diagnosed

If the patient feels he/she has a hairline fracture its important to seek treatment from the doctor as soon as possible. The doctor can perform several exams such as –

Physical examination

The doctor inspects the painful area. They’ll probably apply gentle pressure to see if it causes pain.

MRI

MRI is the best imaging test for determining hairline fractures. This test uses magnets and radio waves to provide your bone images. An MRI determines a fracture before an X-ray can.

X Ray

Hairline Fractures often aren’t visible on X-rays immediately after the injury. The fracture may become visible a few weeks after the injury takes place.

Bone Scan

A bone scan involves receiving a small dose of radioactive material through a vein. This substance accumulates in areas where bones are repairing. But because this test will indicate an increased blood supply to a particular area, it won’t specifically prove there’s a hairline fracture. It’s suggestive but not diagnostic of a hairline fracture.

Treatment for Hairline Fractures

The main treatment for hairline fractures is refraining from doing activities that can aggravate the injury for approximately one month and half. Once the bone has been healed of its minute cracks, the person can start resuming his normal activities gradually. In cases when extreme pain is experienced, the affected area must be put at rest and must be immobilized by casting or bracing. Shoe inserts like supportive orthotics and walking crutches can also be recommended but only when the patient’s normal movements are already affected.

Use of analgesics is also prescribed when the pain is unbearable. People who have hairline fractures can better visit physical therapists so that they could be advised with strengthening exercises that are non-weight bearing like swimming. Fortunately, hairline fractures rarely need surgery because they can be easily mended with just two weeks of rest. However, the injury can still worsen if the fractures are not given appropriate medical attention.

Consultation for Hairline Fractures in Singapore

We at Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic are conveniently located in Central Part of Singapore at Gleneagles Medical Centre. Please feel free to contact us regarding treatment of hairline fractures. We provide same day appointment and X-ray/MRI prior advanced arrangement.