A stress fracture is a tiny crack or fissure in a specific bone which occurs due to repeated stress to that bone. A stress fracture stems from a bone being overused to the point that hairline cracks start to appear, leading to inflammation, and in some cases, severe amounts of pain. A stress fracture can happen to anyone, however they seem to be most common in athletes and those who have physically demanding occupations. Typically, any individual who spends a lot of time running, jumping, lifting heavy objects, or anything of the like are the ones most likely to develop a stress fracture. The repetitive movement and overuse tend to be the culprits that lead to stress fractures. Also, women tend to suffer from stress fractures more often than men. Researchers believe this is true because women are susceptible to developing osteoporosis in later life, which means they have weakened bones. Even though the pain is universally identifiable, stress fractures can only be diagnosed by a doctor using an X-ray machine. Most patients report pain as being constant and dull which increases in severity when the affected limb is used for activities (i.e. walking or running).
Other facts about stress fractures include:
- Most people commonly report stress fractures after beginning a new exercise routine, or after dramatically increasing the intensity of their current exercise routine.
- In adults who report stress fractures, 1 out of 4 report the fracture occurring in one of the metatarsal bones in the feet. This isn’t surprising since almost everyone is on their feet for long periods every day.
- Stress fractures also seem to be a recurring issue; meaning once you’ve experienced a fracture, the odds are that you will deal with more at some point in your life.
- In runners, 6-15% of injuries are related to stress fractures. (1)
- Those who have low arches in their feet are also at risk for developing a stress fracture, along with athletes who train and perform in old, worn-down athletic shoes.
Stress fractures are not only painful, but they can also be quite debilitating. In the following reading, we’ll examine the best ways to prevent stress fractures, manage the pain, and get you back on your feet faster.