So many athletes live in fear of a stress fracture...and maybe that's because it's such a common sports-related injury! A stress fracture is a hairline crack in your bone, or even severe bone bruising, that develops, over time, due to repeated impact—and it’s pretty much every runner’s nightmare (not to mention athletes who play sports with lots of running, such as basketball and soccer.)
Stress fractures often develop when you switch up your athletic routine: you try out a new sport, up your weekly running miles, or even just change your training surface (i.e. moving from a treadmill to asphalt). While stress fractures can develop anywhere, the bones in your feet and lower legs are common spots for this kind of injury. Why? These spots bear the majority of your body weight, and get hammered every time you walk, run or jump.
So now you know the what of stress fracture's. Now let's get a better idea of what to do if you suspect this injury is the cause of your discomfort during athletic injury.
Three Part Action Plan for Healing Stress Fractures
If you suspect you're dealing with a stress fracture, getting help can be as easy as one, two, three...
1. Get Diagnosed
As has always been my advice, the best thing to do when any part of your feet, toes or ankles is hurting: see your podiatrist and find out what’s really wrong. A pain in your leg could be a cramp, but it could also be a fracture. Don’t shrug off discomfort, but don’t panic and jump to conclusions pre-maturely. The only definitive way to diagnose a stress fracture is with a bone scan or MRI (the tiny crack is unlikely to show up on an X-ray, particularly in its early stages.)
2. Rest and Heal
Recovering from a stress fracture requires time and patience (possibly over a month.) At first, you must rest completely; next, when you get the go-ahead from your podiatrist, start gentle work-outs, placing an emphasis on cross-training so that the injured bone doesn’t get the same time of continuous impact that got you in trouble in the first place. Then, once you’ve built up enough strength (and again, only with your podiatrist’s approval), you can get back to running.
3. Focus on the Future
Keep your mind on the end-goal: getting back to pain-free running. Don’t try to do too much, too soon, or you’ll end up worse off than when you first started hurting.
Stress fractures and shin-splints are often viewed as nothing more than thorns in the paws of runners, but they are serious injuries that require treatment. If you are dealing with a running injury of any kind, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider today.