Stress fractures are a common overuse injury seen in runners, jumpers and other athletes and are caused from repetitive loading without enough rest, with the majority of stress fractures occurring in the shin or foot.
A sudden point of pain in your leg or foot, alongside an increase in activity and a decrease in rest is a clear symptom of a stress fracture, additionally if the pain worsens during activity this is another symptom.
A stress fracture will feel similar to shin splints and are most commonly seen in people who do a lot of long distance running or jumping.
A stress fracture is a crack in a bone, however compared to a typical break it happens over time rather than at a specific moment in time or from a certain movement.
Weight bearing exercises such as running, is great for your bone health. However, the repetitive trauma makes the body lay down more layers of bone, which makes the bone thicker and stronger.
But if the bone does not get enough rest then it will not progress from the ‘breaking down’ phase and does not present the bone a chance to lay down new layers of bone.
The first step to recovery is rest. The severity and location of the fracture may require you to wear a boot or a non-weight bearing for a matter of time.
After rest a gradual return to activity is the next step. Athletes may see a physiotherapist who will focus on strengthening any deficits they may have, as well as helping with exercises, load management and identifying the cause of the stress fracture before modifying the athletes training to prevent a recurrence.
Returning to exercise after a Stress Fracture
At the beginning of your return, you may have to stop all weight bearing activity, taking away the repetitive pounding against the ground allows the body to rest ad heal itself.
A physiotherapist can advise what exercises you are able to do to best maintain your fitness levels.
As you make a return to running, it will need to be a gradual increase in load.