You’re running along like you always do, when suddenly you feel a twinge in your lower leg—something that just doesn’t feel right. It could even be a sudden deep bone pain. But, being the dedicated runner you are, you keep going, only to have the pain increase. Hold up.
Chances are you’ve just suffered a common injury among runners—the dreaded stress fracture. A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the surface of a bone, usually in the lower leg or upper bones of the foot. Stress fractures can occur when trying to increase the intensity or volume of your training. You may experience muscle soreness and stiffness, or pinpoint pain may develop in the area of the affected bone. Sometimes swelling will occur.
Stress fractures can also occur when people keep pushing themselves beyond the point of being tired. When our muscles become tired, the bones are left to do all the work, and become “stressed.”
Stress fractures may exhibit additional symptoms including:
- Repetitive stress on the bone or overuse
- Increasing activity too quickly and too soon
- Bad running shoes
- Weak muscles or poor flexibility
- Being overweight—or underweight
- Issues with bone density
- Sudden changes in running surfaces.
Besides affecting runners, stress fractures also can crop up among dancers, basketball players, tennis players and other athletes.
What to do if you think you have a stress fracture.
Stop running or participating in sports until you see a physician experienced in treating such injuries. Because stress fractures don’t generate the same amount of pain that a traditional fracture does, they are rarely diagnosed and treated properly. Our sports medicine and orthopedic foot and ankle specialists are highly trained in spotting and treating this elusive condition.
How can you avoid a stress fracture?
Experts offer quite a few suggestions that can help you avoid stress fractures from running or other high-impact activity. Here are a few of those tips:
- Don’t ramp up the distance or the speed of your run too quickly. Many professional runners recommend that you increase your distance by no more than 10% a week.
- Make sure you wear the right shoes for your sport with plenty of support. Consider using shock-absorbing inserts.
- Try shortening your running stride.
- Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet to keep your bones healthy and strong. Yogurt, milk, cheese, tofu and dark leafy greens like spinach, cereals are all good choices.
- Run on softer surfaces when you can, like grass or pavement – they have more “give” than concrete.
- Strengthen the muscles around the vulnerable bones—work your calves and you’ll be less likely to suffer a stress fracture.
If you do experience a stress fracture, call our experts.
The physicians at Coastal Orthopedics will prescribe the treatment that is best for your individual situation. It might involve a combination of ice, rest, physical therapy, a brace or crutches, and cross-training with low-impact and non-weight-bearing activities. If you have bone pain that is not improving or you suspect you may have experienced a stress fracture, call us immediately at 941-792-1404 or request an appointment here. We’ll help take the stress off your bones—and your mind.