Stress fractures are some of the most common injuries among athletes. This is unfortunate news because it means that if you practice a sport (whether professionally or as a hobby), it’ll sideline you for several months. Still, it’s essential to ensure proper rest and healing time in order to get back to doing the things you love.
Symptoms of a Stress Fracture
The symptoms may appear gradually and worsen as the condition becomes more serious. If you’re an athlete or suffer from a degenerative illness or weak bones, pay close attention to the following symptoms:
- Tenderness in the affected area
- Relief from symptoms when resting
- Affected area feels warm to the touch
- Pain with motion
Causes of Stress Fractures
Stress fractures can occur when a person suddenly increases the amount or intensity of training. For example, if a person is used to running at a conversational pace and all of the sudden goes all out on a frequent basis, the likelihood of their muscles getting fatigued increases. This, in turn, will cause the extra stress to fall on the bones. Do it enough, and the person ends up with a hairline fracture or tiny cracks along the bones.
Stress fractures occur gradually, so a person suffering from one may not even notice that they’re injuring themselves over time.
If you’re training for an event (or are particularly excited about a newfound love for a sport), it’s crucial to increase the level of activity and intensity gradually. This way, you give your bones enough time to adapt and recover from the increase in exercise.
Risk Factors for Stress Fractures
Stress fractures could happen in any sport with repetitive motions, such as running, gymnastics, basketball, competitive dance, or anything that involves running long distances or jumping frequently. Other risk factors include:
- Not wearing appropriate shoes for the activity
- Having flat feet
- Having an eating disorder
- Having previously suffered from a stress fracture
- Gender: They are more common in women
- Amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual cycle)
Diagnosis of Stress Fractures
If you’re experiencing pain and haven’t suffered a hard impact/trauma to the area, a doctor will examine the area for any noticeable changes in the skin or muscles around the injury, such as bruising or swelling.
Your doctor will also likely have you take a few steps to see if the pain is affecting the way you walk or carry your weight. We recommend letting your medical provider know of your regular physical activities in detail.
If your doctor believes you’re suffering from a stress fracture, he or she will order x-rays or an MRI to confirm or eliminate this as a diagnosis.
Treatment of Stress Fractures
In order for a stress fracture to fully heal, rest is a requirement. The doctor may recommend crutches to prevent the injured bone from carrying your entire body weight.
If you’re experiencing a lot of pain, the medical provider may recommend anti-inflammatory medication.
Preventing Stress Fractures
Preventing stress fractures involve a holistic approach:
1. Ensure you’re receiving proper nutrition. In order for your bones to be healthy, you have to provide them with the right amount of nutrients. Vitamin D, iron, potassium, calcium, protein, carbohydrates: all of these come into play for optimal performance and overall health.
2. Buy shoes from a specialty store. There are several factors that come into play when purchasing the right pair of athletic shoes: Your gait, whether you’re an overpronator, have flat feet, your fitness level, and whether you’re prone to injury. Going to a run of the mill chain store will probably leave you with employees who won’t have the specialized knowledge required to help you choose the right pair for you.
3. Increase your activity level gradually. If you’re new at a particular sport, or you’ve moved from a sedentary lifestyle to incorporating regular exercise into your life, look for training plans for beginners, or if financially possible, hire a coach to get you started. There’s also plenty of free information available online. Don’t just go in blindly. Listen to the experts.
4. Cross train. While exercise is extremely beneficial for a person’s overall health, it’s important to keep in mind that overuse can result in injuries. Incorporating cross-training into your routine, allows muscles and bones to recover properly between your workout of preference.
5. Strength training. Strength training (weight bearing exercises) allows muscles to become stronger, which alleviates stress and burden on bones. This is beneficial for both athletes and people with degenerative diseases such as arthritis or osteoporosis.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you believe you may have a stress fracture, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.