Stress fractures are a common and serious injury that runners can experience. These injuries occur when there is a small crack in the bone due to repetitive and excessive force on the affected area. They are often associated with running, but also can occur in other activities that involve repeated stress to the bones such as dancing, jumping, or gymnastics.
Here are some signs and symptoms of stress fractures that runners should be aware of:
Pain: Pain is the most common symptom of stress fractures. The pain is usually focused on the affected area and tends to be quite severe. As the injury progresses, the pain may intensify or become more constant, even when not running.
Localized tenderness: Runners with stress fractures often experience tenderness when they touch the affected area. This can be felt even when pressure is applied lightly.
Swelling: In some cases, runners may experience swelling around the affected area. This is due to irritation or inflammation of the bone or surrounding tissues.
Bruising: If the injury is severe, there may be bruising or discoloration around the affected area. This can be a sign that the bone has fractured completely.
Changes in gait: A stress fracture can lead to changes in your running gait. This could manifest in different ways, such as limping or a change in your stride pattern. If you notice any changes in your gait, it is a good idea to take a break from running and see a medical professional.
Pain with activity: A stress fracture is typically painful when you exercise or engage in physical activity. The pain may ease up when you are resting, but it will return once you start to move again.
Increased pain over time: With a stress fracture, the pain tends to get worse over time. What may start out as a slight discomfort can escalate to a severe and debilitating injury if left untreated.
If a runner experiences any of these signs and symptoms of a stress fracture, they should stop running immediately and see a medical professional. Stress fractures require medical attention, and delay can lead to further injury and complications.
To prevent stress fractures, runners should make sure to wear appropriate footwear, maintain a healthy diet that supports bone growth, and gradually increase their mileage to avoid sudden spikes in activity levels. By taking the necessary precautions and recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress fractures, runners can keep themselves healthy and injury-free.