Anyone who’s watched the Olympics has heard about one athlete or another dealing with a stress fracture. Maybe stress fractures have occurred a little closer to home, too – in yourself or a friend. Stress fractures can be very painful, and it’s important to understand what they are so that proper treatment can be sought.
Stress fractures are tiny, microscopic cracks that appear in the bone. Many people aren’t aware that our skeletal systems are constantly repairing themselves, replacing worn out bone cells on a daily basis as we sleep. Stress fractures happen when there’s too much strain on a given bone for the damage to be repaired overnight.
By far the most common cause of stress fractures is simple overuse. They’ll often crop up in athletes that are training or otherwise exercising with suddenly greater intensity, duration or frequency than prior levels. Other whole-body issues such as nutrition deficiencies, lack of sleep or even hormonal imbalances can contribute to stress fractures.
The first step in treating a stress fracture is diagnosing it. The pain is felt within the bone and it’s right around the affected area – both while it’s in use (for example, jumping on a leg with a stress fracture) and when it’s pressed on (otherwise known as bone tenderness). It’s alleviated with rest and exacerbated with use. A stress fracture diagnosis can come from an x-ray, but early stress fractures are not always picked up by x-rays. Other, more precise diagnostic tools are bone scans and MRIs.
Once you’ve got a stress fracture diagnosis, the main element of recovery is rest – generally anywhere from one to six weeks with a gradual return to weigh-bearing for a non-serious diagnosis. Over time and with enough rest, the bone will be able to repair itself and normal activity can be resumed. More high-risk stress fracture, such as those in the hips, are treated more aggressively to prevent the micro-fractures from becoming full-blown fractures.
The best treatment for stress fractures is prevention. While stress fractures can occur in any bone of the body, they most frequently appear in the lower extremities, which are weight-bearing and subject to high-impact use. One of the ways you can support yourself while you’re recovering from a stress fracture is to wear supportive footwear with plenty of cushioning. This will improve how efficient your biomechanics are, reducing any unnecessary strain, while providing shock absorption to reduce the impact of your stride. Our recommended insoles for work boots have some of our favorite cushioning insoles on the market. If you aren’t sure which is right for you, click the contact button on the left to get in touch! We’re happy to help.
None of this information is intended to replace a diagnosis from a licensed professional. If you suspect that you’re dealing with stress fractures, see your doctor as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis.