A woman with a stress fracture

Common Causes of Stress Fractures

A stress fracture, also called hairline fracture, is caused by repeated stress or force on the bone.
Your bones constantly repair themselves, but when stress is placed on your bone it prevents the bone from being able to repair. If your bone cannot repair, it becomes weak and vulnerable to a stress fracture.
The fracture is very small that appears like a crack in your bone. Stress fractures commonly occur in weight-bearing bones: tibia, metatarsals, and navicular bones. Hairline fractures in your femur, pelvis, and sacrum are less common. The following factors increase your risk for stress fractures. 


Stress fractures caused by sports are common. Several high-impact sports can increase your risk. If the sport, or activity, requires you to run or jump, a fracture can occur in your legs or feet. Additionally, sports that require repetitive movements of your foot striking the ground can cause stress fractures.

Activity Changes

Stress fractures are common in people who have gone from a sedentary lifestyle to a new exercise routine. Another risk is if you abruptly intensify your workout regimen. The reason this can increase your risk is because when your muscles aren’t conditioned, they can tire easily and they can’t sufficiently support and cushion your bones. Increased pressure is placed directly on your bones, resulting in a hairline fracture.


Stress fractures appear to be more common in women, especially in women who experience irregular menstrual cycles. Reduced estrogen, due to abnormal periods, can cause osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones.

Foot Problems

Feet abnormalities, such as fallen arches, can cause stress to be distributed unequally throughout your feet and legs. This increases your risk of stress fractures. Inappropriate equipment, such as worn out or old running shoes, has the same effect on your feet and legs.

Previous Fractures

Stress fractures are known to recur. It is estimated that about 60% of people who have a hairline fracture have experienced one in the past.

Seeking Help

If you think you may have a stress fracture, do not hesitate to see your doctor. After a medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic testing, such as imaging scans, your doctor can confirm a diagnosis and you can start treatment.
Rest, ice the injured area, and resume activity gradually while recovering from a stress fracture. 

Last Updated: October 06, 2016