A focus on… Stress Fractures

Stress Fracture

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a microscopic fracture of the bone that is so small that it often cannot be picked up on X-ray. If left untreated, a stress fracture can cause significant disability and develop into a full fracture, possibly even requiring surgery. Stress fractures are predominantly found in the lower limb, especially in the hip, shins, and foot. They are majorly overuse injuries and are prevalent among long-distance runners.

What are the symptoms?

Stress fractures manifest as overuse injuries, where pain emerges gradually, either during or post-activity, or sometimes the subsequent morning. If activities persist without modifications, the pain intensifies. Eventually, many individuals cannot sustain their regular activity levels. This condition is frequent among runners and military personnel who engage in prolonged marching. Individuals with weaker bone strength, such as those with osteoporosis, are more susceptible to stress fractures. Factors like adequate calcium intake, vitamin D deficiency, and a sedentary history can influence osteoporosis.Stress Fracture

How are stress fractures treated and how long will it take to get better?

It’s easy to confuse stress fractures with conditions like shin splints. Since these fractures often don’t show on X-rays, MRI or bone scans can provide a definitive diagnosis. Post-diagnosis, the pivotal treatment step is to rest the impacted area to facilitate bone healing. Typically, stress fractures necessitate a minimum of 6 weeks for complete recovery. However, certain body areas with limited blood supply may present complexities in healing. For instance, navicular bone stress fractures in the foot might require immobilization using a boot or cast for effective healing. Addressing potential contributing factors to the injury is also part of the treatment. Unsupportive footwear, poor biomechanics, and weak muscles might be potential risk factors. If you suspect a stress fracture or seek more information, consult your physiotherapist.

Note: The content of this article is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a medical expert regarding your specific condition.

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