While it’s easy to end up with bumps and bruises from falling, sometimes what you think is just a bruise could be something worse: a stress fracture. “Stress fractures, or microfractures on your bones, happen because you do too much activity too quickly and your bone is not structurally ready to handle the workload that you’re putting it through,” says Dr. Goldwaser. A bruise typically happens from banging a body part into something, whereas a stress fracture is a gradual, deep ache directly on a bone that sharply hurts when pressed on and may or may not have a small bruise associated with it.
A stress fracture in your foot can start to feel better if you take off your skates or skis, leading many people to try to “play through the pain,” he says, but continuing the activity can lead to worse outcomes. “If a person continues pushing, the bone can’t handle the amount of stress, and all those little microfractures add up into a large break in the bone.”
The best thing to do for a stress fracture is to reduce activity to the point where you don’t feel pain, and rest the bone, says Dr. Goldwaser. If you do, typically this type of injury will resolve itself in about six weeks.