A stress fracture is considered an overuse injury and is common in sport for both professionals and amateurs alike. The condition itself occurs were the muscles within the body become tired and as a result are unable to manage the forces being passed through the body as you undertake exercise, which in time can result in undue stress being placed on the bones within a joint resulting in a hairline crack or stress fracture.
Origins of a stress fracture
We are all susceptible to overuse injuries, where we have pushed ourselves too far or have increased our intensity of an activity too fast without preparing the body. Stress fractures can also be caused by the following:
Unfamiliar surfaces: where runners switch from road running to cross country or vice versa, where there are different stresses being placed on the lower body than normal. Running on uneven surfaces can also increase the risk of ankle injuries.
Improper equipment: if you don’t have the right equipment for a specific sport then you are more susceptible to injury. In running you need a good pair of trainers to offer support and padding, without which the foot and ankle will be placed under additional stress from your activity.
Increased physical stress: preparing the body is essential whether you are running a 10K or simply want to last 90 minutes in a football match. Preparation is essential in building up your muscles to cope with the increased stress, without which you run the risk of overuse injuries or stress fractures from the increase in forces on your joints and bones.
Where can a stress fracture occur?
The lower leg sees over 50% of all stress fractures as this is where the weight bearing bones are located, allowing you to walk, run and jump. If you consider the foot the metatarsal bones are very delicate when compared to the femur or tibia and therefore an increase in the forces placed on the bones can have a negative impact in that it will be the smaller bones which are more likely to be affected.
Damage here can put you out of action requiring surgery to rectify the problem, followed by a period in either a cast or a walker boot, the latter protecting the foot during recovery whilst still allowing you to remain mobile.
Prevention is better than cure
Whilst we should always do our best to limit the risk of injury, sometimes these things happen and they are beyond our control but there are certain things which we can do to minimise the risk. Preparing the body for exercise is essential when embarking on a new activity, like writing a training plan ahead of a marathon run as to turn up without the necessary training would be foolish.
Alternating your training can also be very beneficial to limit the amount of weight bearing activities undertaken i.e. intersperse your running schedule with our fitness activities such as cycling and swimming to minimise the impact and stresses on your lower joints.
The equipment you chose to use is also important, ensuring it is maintained and fit for purpose. A cheap running shoe is sometimes just not fit for purpose, you need one which caters for your style of running and one which is comfortable and is going to last for the period of your training.
You need to know your limits and when you experience a strain you need to stop what you are doing and rest. Pushing through the pain may seem appealing but can lead to further complications with your injury and an even longer period of time on the side lines. Should there be no signs of improvement following a few days of rest then you should consult with a medical professional.
Find out how The Foot and Leg Clinic can help you with you foot and leg pain. Contact us today.