DEAR DOCTOR K: What is a stress fracture?
DEAR READER: A patient of mine once asked me the same question, but with a twist: "In the emergency room they said I had a stress fracture. That's ridiculous, right? I mean, they're blaming stress for causing nearly every symptom these days. But how can stress cause a bone to break?" It's not emotional or mental "stress" that the word refers to in a stress fracture. It is stress -- unusual physical pressure -- placed on a bone that causes it to break. And the break typically does not separate the two ends of the bone. The X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan often shows no abnormality in the shape of the bone. Instead, there is a hairline crack inside the bone.