Stress fractures can affect all people who take part in high-impact or repetitive activities. They come in many different forms and can occur in any bone, most commonly the foot, but are all characterised by a small crack in the bone, often caused by repetitive force or an underlying condition.
Understanding Stress Fractures:
A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, most often in the foot, or severe bruising within a bone. In a stress fracture, the bone breaks but does not shift position. Over time, with repetitive stresses, your bones can become ‘weakened’, which is a stress reaction. This weakness increases the risk of a stress fracture.
Stress fractures are predominantly caused by a sudden increase in physical activity. This increase can mean the frequency or the intensity of the activity. Bones adapt slowly to load through remodeling, increasing your load too quickly does not give the bone enough time to adapt.
There are a few things that make your foot more susceptible to stress fractures, such as insufficient bone strength, lacking key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D and most notably, having a pre-existing condition such as osteoporosis, flat feet, high rigid arches or a previous stress fracture.
How can I prevent a stress fracture?
There are many simple steps that can be taken to help prevent stress fractures:
Make changes slowly
Bone needs time to adapt to load. When starting a new exercise program, be sure to start it slowly and make progression gradually. You shouldn’t be increasing the amount you exercise by more than 10-30% per week.
Your body needs time to adapt to the load this includes terrain changes, time spent exercises as well as how hard you are training.
Use proper footwear
You can reduce your risk of a stress fracture by ensuring that your shoes fit well and are appropriate for the exercise you are doing. If you have flat feet, ask your physiotherapist about custom orthotics.
Ensure there is a variety of low and high-impact activities to your exercise plan to prevent repetitive strain. But be mindful to not make any sudden changes to your training surface, such as going directly from grass to a hard court.
Enjoy proper nutrition
To keep your bones strong, make sure you are consuming enough calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients. Not only will this protect you from stress fractures of the foot, but it will also improve your general well-being.
Book a running assessment
It identifies areas of your exercise regime which may need improvement to help prevent injury. It also identifies areas where you may be placing excessive load on your body or using improper techniques which could result in injury.
Your physiotherapist can show you how to modify this during your exercise and ensure you are training in the safest and most effective way possible.
What if I already have a stress fracture?
Stress fractures don’t show up on X-rays and will need further testing to properly diagnose the problem. The symptoms of a stress fracture vary but typically pain usually develops gradually and worsens during weight-bearing activity and reduces during rest. You may also find that your foot may be tender to touch, develop bruising or swelling on the top of the foot or on the outside of the ankle.
If you suspect you may have a stress fracture, the first thing to do is limit physical activity. You can read more about stress fractures of the foot on our website here.
Book an appointment
You can then make an appointment with us and our team at Vitalis Physiotherapy can assess and diagnose the condition. They will then tailor your treatment plan to aid in your pain relief and recovery.
All you need to do is just give us a call on 0410 559 856 and request an initial appointment or book online. Please let our friendly reception staff know the background and severity of your condition.