Stress fracture

What is it?


Stress fractures are feared amongst runners, and are one of those injuries that just won't go away. Many only associate a stress fracture with the bones of the feet, but they can occur in the Tibia/Fibula (shin), Femur, Pelvis and Navicular. Essentially, a crack appears in the bone which has been excessively stressed. This leads to pain on weight bearing, and if ignored, discomfort at rest. Some report aching and localised burning at the site of injury and is painful when pressed.


Why would I suffer from this?


Stress fractures can occur from repeated impact loading forces, where high levels of shock travel from the foot to the ankle, knee and hip. The trauma can arise from ground shock, where the foot hits the ground or from the push off phase of running. 

Research states that changing training type actually softens the bones for the first month. During this time the body learns how to remodel bone in reaction to the new stresses placed on the body. Some advise reduced training load during this time to allow necessary adaptations to occur. 


Factors which could increase your risk to stress fracture include:-


# Genetics

# Excessive speed work

# Long running stride causing higher shock levels

# Being female, due to hormonal differences

# Unsupportive trainers to suit your running style

What do I do if I suspect stress fracture?


Firstly, it needs to be formally diagnosed with imaging. Unfortunately, X-Ray does not always identifty stress fractures and can occasionally be overlooked. MRI and bone density scans are most effective, but are costly and will often not be offered. Your healthcare professional will be able to advise you on the necessary course of action.


It is critical you stop all load bearing activities, as this will make the stress fracture worse. Depending on the degree and location of stress fracture, you may be required to wear a boot to minimise shock through the site of injury for at least six weeks. During this time, focus your efforts on core stability and strength conditioning. Your body will appreciate this when you begin your return to running and make you more efficient. Swimming is great for cardiovascular fitness and will prove challenging if you don't already get in the pool. 


It is important you work with your healthcare professional during your recovery to know how to exercise safely and when you can begin your return to running.

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