Stressing over stress fractures?
What are stress fractures?
The first thing that usually comes to mind when you hear “fracture” is a clear break in the bone, usually due to a traumatic incident (like a fall). However, stress fractures are a more subtle type of bone damage that occurs over time due to overuse rather than a single event.
Stress fractures tend to affect people that do a lot of running and jumping due to the repetitive impact on the lower body associated with those activities, which means that the bones of the lower limbs are most affected. However, they can also happen in non-weightbearing bones, such as the ribs or upper limb. Although these are less common, they occur for the same reason as stress fractures in the lower limb: Overuse.
How do I know if I have a stress fracture?
When diagnosing a stress fracture, there are a few key things we pay attention to:
- A sudden and sustained increase in activity, especially in repetitive loading (e.g., running longer or faster, more training sessions)
- Pain with activity that gets better with rest
- Pain that worsens the longer you do an aggravating activity
- Tenderness or swelling after activity
- Pain at night even at rest
These symptoms, especially if they occur together, can strongly point towards a stress fracture and should not be ignored! It’s a good idea to check in with a physiotherapist or your GP to discuss these symptoms.
In addition to a sudden increase in activity, other factors can also make it more likely for someone to develop a stress fracture. This includes having low bone density, being female, having an eating disorder, and certain medical conditions. Your physiotherapist may ask you questions about some of the above to get a better understanding of what has contributed to your condition.
I think I have a stress fracture – what can I do?
It’s best to have your condition assessed by a physiotherapist if you suspect you might have a stress fracture. If necessary, your physiotherapist may also refer you for other tests to check on the condition of the bone, such as an x-ray, MRI or bone scan. This can also help rule out other potential issues. Depending on where the stress fracture is located, you may also be provided with a camboot or crutches to use, which will help to offload the affected area.
Apart from seeing a physiotherapist, the second best thing to do is minimise aggravating activities as much as possible or finding substitute activities to help maintain fitness. For example, riding a stationary bike instead of running can help maintain cardiovascular fitness whilst also keeping bone stress at a minimum. This will help to reduce load on the bone and help it heal properly, and will also prevent potential worsening of the fracture.
The good news is that stress fractures usually recover well as long as they are managed appropriately. Most people are able to gradually return to their desired activities without any problems!
Reach out to us on 1300 738 609 or book online if you are concerned about having a stress fracture. Let us help you find your Solution.