With more and more people taking up running due to lockdowns and closed gyms, the Podiatrists at TFC Podiatry have been treating a large number of stress fractures in the foot. A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a bone that is a result of repetitive stress to the area. While there is a break in the bone, there is no displacement. Stress fractures are common in the foot and are prevalent in long-distance runners and sports that involve large amounts of jumping.
Stress fractures are most commonly found in your metatarsals, navicular, calcaneus, tibia, and fibular.
Causes Of Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are often associated with high levels of activity and overall bone health. Some common causes of stress fractures include:
- Weaker muscles or bones. Having weaker muscles may lead to less absorption of forces being applied onto the bones in the foot. Meanwhile having a low bone density, such as people with osteoporosis, also increases the chances of stress fractures.
- Inadequate training load. Sudden exposure to higher amounts of training loads that your bones may not be used to can lead to stress fractures. An increase in frequency, time, training intensity, or change in training surface all pose a risk of developing stress fractures.
- Poor footwear choices. Shoes with not enough support may contribute to developing stress fractures due to less shock absorption and motion control within your foot.
- Participating in sports with repetitive stress on the foot and ankle. Sports such as running, hiking, basketball, gymnastics, and dancing all place large amounts of high-impact forces on the foot and ankle, leaving athletes more susceptible to developing stress fractures.
Symptoms Of a Stress Fracture
Symptoms of stress fractures can often develop gradually and increase over time or can be quite sudden. Possible symptoms to look out for in a stress fracture include:
- Sharp pain localised to the specific area.
- Pain that increases with weight-bearing activities and jumping.
- Swelling on top of the foot or ankle.
- Bruising at the affected area.
- Avoidance of placing pressure on the affected area.
Treatment Of Stress Fractures
In most soft tissue injuries, our clients are able to continue most physical activity to an extent whilst going through the rehabilitation process. Unfortunately, if physical activity continues, there is an increased risk of developing fractures. Therefore, we must take a more aggressive approach when treating stress fractures. We must temporarily put on hold high impact exercise as we allow the bone to heal. In most cases, we prescribe a CAM Walker (moon boot) for a period of time in order to prevent movement within the foot and ankle and reduce pressure on the affected bone. During this process, we prescribe some light non-weight-bearing exercises to minimise muscle loss, and patients often look at alternative non-weight-bearing physical exercise.
If you think you have a stress fracture it is best to get on top of it as quickly as possible so you can return to exercising. Feel free to get in touch with us for an assessment.
Stay tuned for our next blog on returning to sport after recovering from a stress fracture.