Stress fractures are often a runner’s worst nightmare. If you are concerned about how to avoid stress fractures, or want to know what to do if you develop one, read on.
What is a stress fracture?
One of the more discouraging injuries a runner can suffer, a stress fracture is a small crack in one of the weight bearing bones (essentially any bone from your toes to your pelvis).
What causes stress fractures?
There are two schools of thought about what causes these painful fractures. The first is ‘active forces’, that is, the repeated force of pushing off the ground with each stride you take. The other cause could be ‘impact loading’ – the shock of impact as you strike the ground with each stride. It may be a combination of both forces, and genetics may also play a role.
How do I know if I have a stress fracture?
It’s common to feel an ache or a localised burning feeling along a bone when you have a stress fracture. You might also notice some swelling above the bone, but that doesn’t always occur. When we run, endorphins are released, which can have the effect of temporarily masking pain. If your pain increases during and also after a run, it may be another sign.
You will need to see a doctor to confirm the fracture. Importantly, a regular X-ray will not show a stress fracture. You need to request a body imaging scan or MRI instead.
How should I treat a stress fracture?
It typically takes around 6 weeks for a bone to heal. This means no running at all, and depending on the severity, you may require crutches or a boot to ensure the bones don’t bear much weight. Low risk fractures (located in the fibula and tibia) sometimes can heal on their own with nothing but rest. High risk fractures (located above the knee, including femur and pelvis) can require more complex care, including complete immobilisation.
Either way, the best recommendation is to take as much time off as you need to completely recover. A premature return to training is likely to cause more damage and may even convert the stress fracture into a deeper, worse fracture. This will cause more pain and more time off the road.
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Whilst Enertor has over 18 years Orthotics experience, our blog content is provided for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical advice. Enertor advises anyone with an injury to seek their own medical advice – and do not make any health or medical related decisions based solely on information found on this site
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