A stress fracture, or hairline fracture, can occur when too much stress or weight is put on a bone that is already weak. It could occur as a result of an imbalance in the health of the bone due to conditions that are not handled well when the body is rebuilding natural bone.
Bone fractures are a particular risk for adults, particularly those who are active and in generally good shape. With the right kind of training, stress fractures could be prevented from occurring in the future.
WHAT IS A STRESS FRACTURE?
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When overly fatigued muscles can no longer buffer the shock of impact tiny cracks in your bones can appear called a stress fracture. The impact from repeated movement transfers to your bones and causes these fractures. They are commonly seen in weight-bearing bone in the ankle, shin, and foot.
How Are They Diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine the area and will probably have an MRI done to see what the damage is. If you have stress fractures, you will be advised to take a break from the activity that has caused it. Based on how bad the injury is, you may have to wear a boot or brace to help with healing. The best practice is to know how to avoid future injury.
There are many reasons a person may be at risk, you don't have to be an athlete. Some risk factors include:
WHAT CAN CAUSE FOR A STRESS FRACTURE?
The major reason for a stress fracture is overuse. They are particularly common in athletes who are engaged in high-impact sports like long-distance running, tennis, gymnastics, and basketball. They can also occur if you are normally inactive and suddenly begin an exercise regime. An example is suddenly doing a lot of walking when you normally don't or beginning to jog. This happens because your muscles aren't prepared for the stress you are placing on them. They aren't ready to absorb the intense amount of shock you are placing on them. Teenagers are particularly at risk because their bones are still growing and are not completely hardened. People who have weak bones due to medical reasons such as osteoporosis are also at risk.
Other reasons are poor technique or training when exercising. Using bad equipment. Worn out running shoes that no longer have the proper cushioning or good arch support can be bad for your feet and cause stress. These are a few reasons:
Gradual pain that intensifies when doing weight-bearing exercise will let you know you may have suffered a stress fracture. The pain will lessen when you rest, it may even go away completely when you are inactive and not jumping, walking, or running. The top of the foot, the area around the shin, or the ankle may swell. The part of the body where the injury is may be tender to touch and bruised. You may even feel a dull pain that gets sharper as you walk or use the injured area.
Typically your doctor will recommend that you cease the activity causing the pain, wear a walking boot, if needed, and apply cold therapy. Treatment can range from simply resting to wearing a cast, doing physical therapy or in the worst case needing surgery. This depends on how many fractures there are and the area affected. You also should:
Rest - take a break from your activities and rest. Regardless of the type of injury you have, such as a stress fracture of the shin, ankle, or metatarsal, you need to take a break. if you don't, you could further injure the area and cause a complete fracture or a broken bone. You should rest between 4 to 8 weeks and change to a lower-impact sport. Some patients may need to stop activity completely depending on the severity and type of stress fracture. Often times all that is needed is rest.
Apply cold therapy - Apply cold compresses or ice packs to the area to limit swelling and pain.
Take anti-inflammatory medication - Medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be taken for pain, but they can also affect bone healing. Consult your doctor for best practices.
Protective footwear - Patients may need to wear a special orthopedic shoe to reduce the stress if they are suffering from a foot or ankle injury. Examples are:
Braces or Casts - Depending on the type of fracture you have, you may need to wear a cast. Ankle fractures or bone injuries affecting the outside of the foot may require a longer healing time. Braces, casts and other items immobilize the foot and ankle and help with healing. You may require a wheelchair or crutches. Common types of braces or casts include:
Physical therapy - After the healing and rest periods are over, working with a physical therapist is often advised. This will help to:
Some common types of physical therapy are:
It can take 6-8 weeks to heal stress fractures. Switch to a non-weight bearing activity like biking or swimming if often recommended while you are healing. Follow your doctors advise for the best activities to do while healing.
TIPS FOR STRESS FRACTURE PREVENTION
Actions you can take to prevent a fracture in the future include:
GRADUALLY ADJUST YOUR TRAINING ROUTINE
When adding intensity or time to your workouts, do so over a span of weeks or months based on the goal you have set for yourself. A drastic change in the intensity, duration, and frequency of your training can elevate the risk of injury. An example of this is a runner who wants to increase their distance. They should follow the 10% rule. Their distance should not increase over 10% from week to week.
TAKE HEED WHEN CHANGING TRAINING SURFACES
A stress fracture, as well as a shin splint, can occur when a runner switches from their treadmill training to asphalt. Make sure to make the change slowly in order to avoid injury.
CHECK THE EQUIPMENT YOUR ARE USING
Supportive shoes can prevent both a stress fracture and shin splints. Fractures in the feet can occur from wearing poor quality or worn out running shoes.
CHECK YOUR FORM IN THE MIRROR
Recreational workouts are of particular concern in creating a stress fracture. Make sure that your technique is correct to avoid injury.
GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D AND CALCIUM IN YOUR DIET
Make sure you are getting the correct dosage of both calcium and vitamin D. Consult your doctor if you are unsure what is best for you. These vitamins are important for the health of your bones.
BE CAUTIOUS WHEN TRANSITIONING FROM OFF- TO PEAK-SEASON TRAINING
If you have a big change in your workout routine throughout the year, make the transition slowly to avoid injury.
CROSS-TRAINING IS IMPORTANT
For those who only do one type of workout all year long or don't have an off-season activity are at risk of a fracture. Children are at particular risk as they are still developing.
GIVE EXERCISE A BREAK WHILE ON VACATION
People who only exercise while on vacation have a higher risk of stress fractures.
CAREFULLY SWITCH YOUR SHOES
If you change the heel height you normally wear, you can get a stress fracture. For instance, if your only have been wearing flat heels and then switch to high heels you are at risk.
There are things you can do to prevent a stress fracture. Proper technique and training are important in avoiding an injury. By knowing how to exercise correctly you will prevent bone loss and muscle fatigue. Eating the right foods such as foods rich in vitamin D and calcium can build up your bone strength. Gradually work up to your exercise goal and slowly increase your distance and time. Wearing the right shoes and using the right equipment will also prevent injuries.