Stress Fractures: What Causes Them, How Can I Treat Them?
Stress fractures: what causes them, how can i treat them? How this common injury can affect you and what to do about it.
- Stress fractures are a type of bone fracture caused by repetitive stress on a specific area over a long period of time, and they are common among athletes, military personnel, and people who change their exercise routine suddenly without proper preparation.
- The best way to prevent stress fractures is to wear proper shoes with arch support and shock-absorbing properties, avoid excessive alcohol use and smoking, and maintain proper conditioning and technique.
- If you suspect that you have a stress fracture, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible and follow the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to relieve the symptoms. After healing, it is important to wear supportive footwear to prevent future injuries.
What is a Stress Fracture?
A fracture is a technical term for a broken bone. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Bones fracture under two usual circumstances: with excessive force on the bone (such as from a twisting injury or a car accident) or from repetitive stress to a specific area over a long period of time. The first is called a “traumatic fracture” and the second is a “stress fracture.”
Another way to explain a stress fracture is by thinking of a paper clip. If you were to bend the paper clip once or twice, it will hold up just fine. But bend it back and forth over and over and it will weaken and then eventually break. These kinds of fractures usually occur in athletes, military, or when someone changes their activities without preparation- such as trying a new exercise routine or suddenly increasing the intensity of the workout. Other factors that can put you at risk for stress fractures are:
- Poor conditioning
- Improper technique
- Change in surface/setting when you exercise (going from indoor to outdoor training)
- Improper equipment (wearing flimsy shoes or not wearing the proper shock-absorbing shoes during high impact exercise)
- Excessive alcohol use
- Eating disorders or obesity
A few of the risk factors can be corrected with a some simple changes. Improper technique, such as over or underpronation can contribute to your risk of stress fractures, especially with avid runners. Foot disorders such as fallen arches with raise that risk even higher.”
The best way to protect yourself from these two factors is to get proper running shoes for the job. Finding shoes with plenty of support and especially arch support shoes will make a big difference. Your feet need this support to help with shock absorption so that your bones do not have to take the brunt of the impact.
What Are Stress Factor Symptoms?
Now that you know the problems that can contribute to stress fractures, let us start on how to recognize the symptoms. The most common stress fracture occurs in the foot or ankle, so we will focus on those. And the most common symptom for those fractures is pain. It seems simple, but many people are used to repressing pain after training regularly. The pain will develop gradually and will worsen during weight-bearing activities (like walking, running, or standing for more than a few minutes at a time). Other symptoms may include:
- Pain that reduces after resting
- Pain that starts or gets worse even during normal daily activities
- Swelling on the top of the foot or on the outside of the ankle
- The site of the fracture may be tender to the touch
- Possible bruising around the area
If you cannot see a doctor right away there are a few things that you can do to relieve the symptoms. One of the most effective is to follow the rice protocol.
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How To Treat a Stress Fracture
If you think you may have a stress fracture in your foot, try to see your doctor as soon as possible. Ignoring the pain can result in serious side effects, including the bone snapping completely. If you cannot see a doctor right away there are a few things that you can do to relieve the symptoms. One of the most effective is to follow the RICE protocol. R.I.C.E stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. While resting, avoid activities that put weight on your foot. If you must put weight on the foot, be sure that you are wearing a very supportive shoe.
For best results, apply ice right after the injury and that will help to keep the swelling down. Ice with cold packs for no more than 20 minutes at a time and do not apply the ice directly to your skin. For compression, lightly wrap the area with a soft bandage and that should prevent additional swelling. Finally, rest with your foot raised up higher than your heart as often as possible. If the pain is still making you uncomfortable, taking anti-inflammatory drugs can help. Follow the directions carefully and get into a doctor’s office as soon as possible.
Moving Foward After a Stress Fracture
In most cases, it can take 6 to 8 weeks or more for a stress fracture to heal. Although it can be frustrating to be sidelined from training because of an injury, it is very important to allow yourself to heal properly. Starting up too much activity too soon can result in larger injuries that will require even more downtime. Once your fracture has healed and your doctor has cleared you to start going back to your regular routine, it is best to wear supportive footwear to aid in your recovery. KURU shoes are specially equipped to do just that. The awesome support that you get from our KURUSOLE technology was uniquely created to form to your foot and give you the best fit your foot has ever had.
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