Being diagnosed with a stress fracture can bring about some mixed feelings. On one hand, you may be happy to know why you've had so much pain in your foot. On the other hand, you're probably wondering what treatment will entail. The good news is that treating a metatarsal stress fracture is not as difficult or painful as many people assume. You will need to work with a podiatrist or orthopedic doctor — preferably one who specializes in sports medicine — but the treatments they'll administer and prescribe are generally quite straightforward.
Stress fractures are usually the result of heavy training, but to allow the fracture to heal, you'll need to take a break from that activity. If staying physically active and maintaining your fitness is really important, your podiatrist may recommend pool running or cycling for a few weeks. These activities keep you aerobically fit without putting so much strain on your foot. You will still, however, want to take it easy with training so your body can dedicate more nutrients and resources to healing.
NSAID pain relievers, like naproxen, are not just to alleviate the pain of your stress fracture. They also reduce inflammation, which allows more blood flow to the injured bone. This, in turn, can help encourage faster healing. Your podiatrist will often have you take NSAIDs consistently for a week or two and then use them less often in the weeks that follow.
You won't usually need to wear a cast for a stress fracture, but your podiatrist will likely recommend some sort of protective boot. You may not need to wear it constantly, but you will need to wear it when you walk or stand. Blow-up air boots are common for stress fracture treatment. They give support and prevent you from over-bending or putting too much direct pressure on your foot, but they are soft and comfortable.
You may also be told to walk with crutches for a few weeks, depending on the severity of your stress fracture. You may not feel like you need the crutches, but use them anyway; the less you step on your foot at this time, the better.
If you follow your doctor's instructions, you should heal from a stress fracture in 6 to 8 weeks. Rarely, patients need surgery to correct a stubborn stress fracture that won't heal on its own, but there's really no reason to suspect this will happen to you. Contact an orthopedic surgeon for more information.