Dear Doctor: I’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and I currently have stress fractures in my feet. It’s been five months, and they still haven’t healed. I’m on a bone-building medicine and a med to prevent calcium loss in the urine. What could be preventing my bones from healing?
Dear Reader: Let’s start with a recap of osteoporosis. Our bodies are constantly absorbing and replacing bone tissue. This occurs at a precise rate calibrated to keep the honeycomb structure within the bones as strong as possible. When that fine-tuned balance becomes disrupted so that either too much bone is removed or not enough bone is replaced, the result is a disease known as osteoporosis.
Bone mass and density decrease, and the natural gaps and holes within in the honeycomb structure become visibly larger. That makes the bones of someone with osteoporosis inherently weaker, which leaves them more prone to injury. This is particularly true of the spine, hips, wrists, forearms and feet, which are the most common sites of osteoporosis fracture. When you consider how much we ask of the weight-bearing bones in our feet as we walk, run, hop and jump our way through daily activities and exercise, it’s not surprising that they are vulnerable to developing stress fractures.
Unlike a complete fracture, which goes through the bone and leaves it in two pieces, a stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone’s outer structure. It can also arise from severe bruising within a bone. Although this is a less extreme injury than the through-and-through break of a complete fracture, you’re still dealing with the need to heal the area and to re-grow bone.