Insufficiency Fractures: What are they and when to consult your doctor

Exercise is a great way to stay in shape and boost your mood, but sometimes overuse and repetitive movements can cause small cracks in the bone, known as insufficiency fractures or stress fractures. An insufficiency fracture is a specific type of stress fracture that occurs below the surface of the bone on weight-bearing joints and can cause a significant amount of pain. It can happen at any age, but most younger patients will heal on their own with rest and time. Older adults and those with conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are at higher risk for an insufficiency fracture becoming chronic, meaning that it has not healed after about three months.

If your pain has not subsided after a significant amount of rest and time, it’s always best to schedule an appointment with your orthopedist. Your symptoms, clinical history and a physical examination will determine whether you need an MRI, which can indicate whether you have an insufficiency fracture.

Undiagnosed or untreated chronic insufficiency fractures can lead to the need for a total joint replacement, and it is important to consider the long-term impact of such an invasive procedure. If you have a total joint replacement early in life, as the joint replacement ages and undergoes more wear-and-tear, it can lead to additional problems, and may eventually necessitate a revision joint replacement. Additionally, recovery from total joint replacement is a long process that can affect your ability to stay active. Before undergoing a total joint replacement, if you have been diagnosed with a chronic insufficiency fracture, make sure you understand alternative treatment options that are available to you.

Injecting a bone substitute material, like Tactoset, is a minimally invasive way to treat your chronic insufficiency fracture. Tactoset can be injected directly into the cracks in the bone, and after injected, it hardens and mimics the properties of the normal bone, effectively sealing the fracture. During the healing process, Tactoset is resorbed by the body and replaced by the growth of new bone.

Tactoset is set apart from other bone substitute materials because it contains hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance found in the human body. Some advantages of hyaluronic acid in Tactoset include enhancing the injectability and flowability of the product in and around the damaged bone structure without disrupting it.

When receiving a Tactoset injection, patients are typically treated in an outpatient setting and return home the same day, unlike more invasive procedures, such as total joint replacement. Many patients are also able to get back to activity much sooner‚Äîyou likely won’t need crutches past the fifth day post-operatively and will be able to weight-bear as tolerated. A short period of physical therapy may be recommended to help get you back to your active lifestyle quickly!

As spring comes around and the weather gets warmer, many of us are excited to get back to physical activity after being cooped up during the winter months. As you exercise, pay attention to how your body feels and keep in mind that chronic pain may be caused by an insufficiency fracture. Always consult your doctor if you begin to feel chronic pain and know that there are options that can help you get moving again.

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