A long time patient called yesterday asking about stress fractures and icing. She was very familiar with my phrase "ice is your friend." However she was unsure if ice would aggravate a possible stress fracture. An x-ray on her foot was negative for any specific damage, however; a stress fracture was still suspected and she is going in for an MRI. She wanted to know if ice could decrease her pain without possibly aggravating a fracture.
Ice is a great tool at decreasing pain and inflammation, especially in the feet. Ice can be used for any muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint injury. Ice does not have much effect on fractures or stress fractures in the foot. It may relieve some of the pain associated with stress fractures, but will not aggravate or change a fractures healing.
She was reminded to ice several times a day in 15 minute intervals. It is always better to keep a thin sheet or paper towel between you and the ice pack, to avoid possible frostbite. Very few things aggravate foot pain like giving yourself frostbite on an injured area. I wish I could say I have only done it once.
Needless to say she is safe to ice her foot even if she has a stress fracture. She should know more about her injury after getting her results, and a definite treatment plan can be developed at that time.