Stress fractures are very common injuries – especially among athletes. People typically get these when their muscles are tired. Tired muscles lead to more impact on bones which can cause small cracks, also known as stress fractures. They can also be caused by weak bones that are associated with the symptoms of osteoporosis.
If you are suffering from stress fractures and are trying to heal from this painful injury, it is advisable to seek out the help of an orthopaedic surgeon for more information and an accurate diagnosis. In addition, to learn more about this common sports injury, check out these 8 important facts about stress fractures.
Most stress fractures occur secondary to overuse. If the person has normal bone strength, a stress fracture will occur from too much use. If a person has weak bones or osteoporosis then one can occur from normal everyday use.
Pain occurs with increasing activity. Pain is typically minimal when getting out of bed first thing in the morning but over the course of time, the pain worsens as the day progresses.
Stress fractures most commonly occur in the feet or the metatarsals.
Diagnosis: rarely are stress fractures seen on a plain X-ray. Most are diagnosed with MRI technology or bone scans. Those involving the spine may need a SPECT scan (single photon emission computed tomography) and or a CT (computed tomography) scan for proper diagnosis.
Treatment options: most can be treated with relative rest. Relative rest is activity that does not cause the injury to continue to be irritated and painful. For example, if a runner or a gymnast is injured in the foot they may run in a swimming pool or spend time riding a bicycle. At risk stress fractures are treated differently. For more on these types of injuries, please refer to #7 below.
At risk stress fractures are located in the femoral neck / hip of the femur, intertrochanteric region of the femur / hip, lumbar spine, navicular bone of the foot and the anterior (front) tibia. These “at risk” injuries may need to be treated with surgery or complete immobilization and rest.
Bone stimulators may make the healing process faster. A bone stimulator is an external device that a person places over the injured part of the body. The bone stimulator sends in sound waves which help to speed up the healing process.
Prevention involves assessing why the person got the injury in the first place. An orthopaedic surgeon trained in common sports injuries or sports medicine can review an athlete’s training log or provide an assessment of prior exercise amount, type and distance so mistakes in training are not repeated.
While many people and especially athletes or individuals suffering from the symptoms of osteoporosis experience stress fractures at one time or another, these common injuries can typically be healed with some patience and effort.
If you are an athlete that is engaged in high impact activity like long distance running or gymnastics it may be beneficial to learn more about how to prevent common sports injuries like stress fractures in order to avoid these painful injuries in the first place. For example, there are a variety of exercises that can help strengthen some of the leg muscles that are key to preventing the muscle fatigue that leads to overuse and injury.
If you think you might be suffering from one of these painful injuries, you may need to make an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon like Orthopaedic Specialists for more information, diagnosis and treatment options.