With the warm days and nights a distant memory, and the cold wintery nights upon us, some of us will be dreaming of the beach… and our Beach body!! With this realization in mind, the New Years Eve resolution you made to “get fit”, “get back to playing sport” and “exercise more often” comes flooding back into mind, and will no doubt see a number of us hitting the gym, running track or sports field with the enthusiasm we once held as children. BUT, what happens when our enthusiasm turns to pain?
Stress Fractures are a common injury when people return to activity after a break and are under prepared for action. They are regarded as an overuse injury or occur when the muscles are over tired and no longer able to decrease the shock of repeated impacts. Activities such as running, tennis, basketball or dancing are all common sports with a high degree of “stress fractures.” Most stress fractures occur in the weight bearing bones of the foot and the lower leg and occur when you increase your high impact
activity by frequency, duration and intensity, or possibly a change in playing surface. In all of these sports, the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground can cause problems, possibly leading to a fracture.
Picture taken from American Academy of orthopedic surgeons – AAOS website – www.orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm
Doing too much too soon is a common cause of these type of injuries, without adequate preparation.
So what does a Stress Fracture feel like? And how do I treat it???
Generally people report a slow onset of pain with weight bearing activities, which eases with rest, but then becomes increasingly painful with day to day activities. There may be swelling around the effected area as well as tenderness to touch the area.
Stress fractures are best treated with rest. Avoiding the activity which has caused the over use is essential and if bad enough, weight bearing should be avoided at all times (crutches or a Cam walker may be prescribed by your therapist. Icing the injured area may help as well as ensuring you have good and supportive shoe to wear.
During this “rest” period it is important to speak with your health care practitioner so they can advise you on your training methods to prevent a re-occurrence. They can advise you on alternating your activities to prevent overuse from occurring, such as cross training. They will also be able to advise you when it is safe to progress your level of activity as well as give you a strengthening tips to help prevent muscle fatigue or injury.
It is important to remember that it may not be an increase in activity or an over use injury. Conditions such as Osteoporosis, which weaken the bone, may also lead to “Stress fractures” If there is a family history of Osteoporosis in the family, it is important to ensure your diet is adequate in providing you with the calcium you need. Consulting your dietitian can help address this issue.
Remember if pain or swelling returns, stop your activity and seek your health care practitioner’s advice.