Im having pain Do I have a stress fracture

How do I get a stress fracture?
This can occur when there is a sudden increase in activity level by increasing the distance or intensity of training. A stress fracture occurs when a bone breaks from repetitive tensile or compressive loads, making it a common overuse injury in long distance runners.

Stress Fracture

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Who is affected?

The incidents of stress fractures are less than 1 percent in the general population, but among runners it is 13% to 52%. Running places more stress on the weight bearing bones in our lower legs. The tibia shin bone fractures account for 49% of all stress fractures seen in athletes, followed by metatarsal foot bone fractures.

What are Risk Factors?

  • History of prior stress fracture
  • Low physical fitness level
  • Increasing volume and intensity too rapidly
  • Female gender and menstrual irregularity
  • Diet poor in calcium and vitamin D
  • Poor bone health
  • Poor biomechanics, like flat feet

What are the Initial signs?
The pain gradually begins in a specific location on the bone and initially gets worse with increased activity. Eventually, the pain is present during less strenuous activity and ultimately during rest. The affected bone will be tender to touch and is often associated with redness and swelling.

What is the difference between shin splints and a stress fracture?
Medial tibial stress syndrome shin splints often precedes the development of a stress fracture on the inside edge of the tibia shin bone. Shin splints are an inflammatory response of connective tissue to repetitive loading and like stress fractures, develop in people who suddenly increase their activity level, intensity, or frequency. The main difference is that shin splint pain is typically located diffusely along the bone on the middle to lower leg, not a specific spot. If the overuse activity continues, shin splints may progress to a stress fracture.

Don’t push through the pain…early diagnosis and intervention is important!
It can help avoid complications, reduce pain, promote healing, prevent further bone damage, and return to running.

Suspect a stress fracture?
It is highly recommended to seek care of a medical professional immediately. An x-ray will often detect if a stress fracture is present.

How to manage pain and symptoms?

  • Ice for 15-20 minutes every three hours as needed.
  • Take pain medication as prescribed by your physician.
  • Modify current activity levels in order to place less stress on the affected bone and remain pain-free.
  • If painful with walking, decreased weight bearing or splinting may be recommended to protect the fracture site.
  • Try alternative activities like walking briskly, using an elliptical machine, deep water running, cycling, or swimming.

Healing time can vary on average from 10-18 weeks depending on how soon it was detected and treatment started. Remember, the key to prevention is increasing training in small, incremental steps, especially for beginner runners.

Learn more about Rehabilitation Services at Divine Savior Healthcare.


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