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A Runner's Guide To Stress Fractures

by Stella Robinson

Running can be exhilarating and thrilling, but it can also be damaging if you push yourself too hard. Runners are all vulnerable to a variety of physical injuries, from tendinitis to shin splints. Stress fractures are one of the most common injuries that runners experience. Knowing what a stress fracture is, how to promote healing after one occurs, and how to avoid getting a stress fracture in the future will help you stay healthy and pain-free. 

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the bone. Stress fractures can occur in the legs, hips and feet. Stress fractures occur when repeated impact from an activity (like running) causes the muscles to become fatigued. After a time, the muscles become incapable of absorbing the impact, and the bone begins to crack. 

How can I tell if I have a stress fracture?

Stress fractures can be hard to diagnose because the cracks are often so fine that they don't appear in X-rays. The first indication that your body is suffering from a stress fracture is a feeling of pain deep within the body. Stress fractures are not superficial injuries. The pain from stress fractures can be intense. In addition, the pain from a stress fracture will often begin to feel worse during a run. 

If you suspect that you are suffering from a stress fracture, see your podiatrist. He or she will be able to detect the stress fracture by ordering an MRI or a CAT scan of the affected area. 

How do stress fractures heal?

A podiatrist, like Advanced Foot Clinic, will recommend treatment for your stress fracture based on the severity of the injury. In some cases, it is enough to take a break from running and other intense physical activities. For more severe injuries, the affected area may need to be immobilized through use of a soft cast, and the patient may need to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the injury. 

What will happen if I choose not to treat the injury?

A stress fracture that goes untreated can turn into a completely broken bone!

How can I avoid getting a stress fracture in the future?

Wear good quality running shoes that will help absorb some of the impact from running. Build up to your running regimen slowly. If you want to increase the amount of running you do in a typical week, make the increase gradual to allow your body to adjust. Finally, avoid running at times when you feel pain in your legs or feet. This pain is an indication of an injury. Running on injured limbs can cause the injuries to become worse. 

For more tips and advice regarding stress fractures, schedule a consultation with your podiatrist.