A stress fracture, which consists of tiny cracks, is the result of excessive, usually repetitive, force through healthy bone. Often sports related, they are common injuries amongst runners, where fractures occur in the feet and the shin bones, but they can also occur in other sports, for example, where lumbar spine stress fractures are found among gymnasts and fast bowlers in cricket, and stress fractures in the wrist can occur when you use your hand to stop a fall, during sports or otherwise.
Stress Fractures occur in 2 distinctive ways:
Stress fractures can occur in anyone who simply under estimated their limitations at the start of a new exercise program. This may occur when not allowing for recovery between exercise days or suddenly training harder during individual sessions.
What are the symptoms of Stress fractures?
Localised pain associated with activity, which usually subsides with rest, is the only real symptom of Stress fractures. It is difficult to be sure of the presence of Stress fractures as they seldom show themselves in initial testing. X-rays taken 2-3 weeks after the initial injury should however show a white area indicating the body’s efforts to heal the bone. Upon seeing this callus formation, a definitive diagnosis can be made.
What is the cause of Stress fractures?
Usually the result of increasing the amount or intensity of activity too rapidly, Stress fractures are caused by fatigued muscles, unable to absorb added shock. Transference of this overload from the muscle to the bone causes the tiny cracks.
We all walk or run a bit differently, so your individual biomechanics can play a significant role. Those who run with poor biomechanics, may place additional stress on the bone via impact going through the leg.
Other causes are:
What is my best course of action?
Rest is important, but rest alone is not a long-term solution to the problem. It is necessary to rest from the direct cause of the problem (but you can’t just do nothing!) and to have your Physiotherapist asses your specific biomechanics to work on optimising the way that you run. They will also diagnose and decide on the exact cause of your problem, before possibly referring you to other medical professionals needed to assist in a complete recovery and prevention of recurrent episodes. Save time and money by making direct contact with your Physiotherapist, who can manage your diagnosis, treatment and recovery from start to finish, while keeping you fit for the next event!
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