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Hairline Fractures: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Also known as a stress fracture, a hairline fracture can vary from a small crack to severe bruising within an affected bone.

Varun Verma
Written by: Varun VermaUpdated at: Feb 13, 2023 10:30 IST
Hairline Fractures: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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Hairline fractures are more likely to occur in people who play sports. It is caused by repetitive movements or overuse of body parts, resulting in small deterioration of the bone over time. Lack of recovery time between activities is a contributing factor that increases the likelihood of suffering hairline fractures. To know about hairline fracture in detail, the OnlyMyHealth editorial team talked to Dr Mohd Bilal Ahmed, Occupational Therapist, Mot (Neurology), 1323 Gali Kar Khaney Wali Tilak Bazar, Delhi, 110006.

What Is a Hairline Fracture?

According to Dr Bilal, "Also known as a stress fracture, a hairline fracture can vary from a small crack to severe bruising within an affected bone." People who play sports, especially athletics involving jumping and running, are prone to hairline fractures. Apart from this, people who suffer osteoporosis can also develop hairline fractures.

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What Causes Hairline Fracture?

A hairline fracture can be caused by repeated stress or a single traumatic event. It is caused by repetitive forces greater than the bone's ability to handle them. According to Dr Bilal, "The most common causes include running, jumping, tennis, and other sports that involve running and jumping."

Generally, bones adjust to higher stresses by forming new bones to replace the damaged ones through a process known as remodelling. But when the stress on the bone is more frequent, bones' ability to remodel fails, increasing the likelihood of hairline fractures.

Who Are At The Risk Of Developing Hairline Fractures?

As mentioned, people who are involved in sports are prone to a hairline fractures. Besides this, the following people are also at risk of getting hairline fractures.

People With Weak Bones: Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones weak and brittle. It affects the density of your bones, and you become more prone to hairline fractures even while doing normal physical activities.

Nutrient Deficiency: Vitamin D and calcium are important for bone growth and development. These nutrients help maintain bone density and keep bones stronger as you age. 

Women: Women who do not have regular menstrual cycles are more likely to have hairline fractures. Female athletes are at a greater risk of getting a hairline fracture due to extreme diets and exercises.

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Symptoms Of Hairline Fractures

When you suffer from a hairline fracture, you tend to experience pain that can increase over time and worsen when you indulge in any activity. As per Dr Bilal, other common symptoms of a hairline fracture include:

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Swelling in the affected part
  • Tenderness of bone

Home Treatments Of Hairline Fractures

Dr Bilal said that the home treatment of hairline fracture typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Rest: Resting the affected area helps to reduce inflammation and pain. Avoid activities that put stress on the affected area, such as running and jumping, until the injury has healed.

Iceing: Apply ice or a cold pack wrapped in a thin towel to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This will reduce pain and swelling; however, avoid directly applying ice to the skin.

Compression: You can wrap an elastic bandage on the affected area to reduce swelling.

Elevation: Elevate the affected area above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help to reduce pain.

Occupational Therapy: A occupational therapist can help to improve the range of motion and strength in the affected area. They may also recommend exercises to help prevent future injuries.

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Healing Time Of Hairline Fracture

Generally, a hairline fracture will heal within a few weeks with rest, but occupational or physical therapy and other treatments may be needed in some cases, stated Dr Bilal. The healing time for a hairline fracture can vary that depends on the severity of the fracture and the type of treatment that is received. He added that, in some cases, it could take several months for a hairline fracture to heal fully.

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