Work isn't the only stress
It is not just work that can stress your body out, your training can too. It is the time of year when people are undergoing a lot of heavy training. Whether it be football, soccer, netball, running or even an 8 or 12 week challenge at your local facility, the winter months tend to see us train hard.
We tend to start seeing a lot of overuse injuries at this time of year. One of the more common ones is a stress fracture (or stress reaction). Often seen the lower limbs, these can also occur in hips, the spine and even in the collar bone.
What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is a microscopic fracture of the bone that is so small that it often cannot be picked up on X-ray. If left untreated, a stress fracture can cause significant disability and develop into a full fracture, possibly even requiring surgery. What are the symptoms?
As with many overuse injuries, the pain of a stress fracture starts gradually, beginning with pain during or after activity or sometimes the morning after. If activity continues without modification, the pain will gradually increase. Eventually most people are unable to maintain their usual activity level. Stress fractures are very are common in runners and military personnel who are required to march for long periods and also those participating in high intensity exercise programs.
How are stress fractures treated and how long will it take to get better? How are they treated? how long before I can train again?
As the fracture is often too small to show up on X-ray, definitive diagnosis can be made using MRI or bone scan.
After diagnosis, the most important part of treatment will be resting the area to allow the bone to heal before resuming activity. In a lot of cases this is relative rest of the affected area and training modifications can be given so that you can train around the effected area. Stress fractures usually need at least 6 weeks to recover fully.
Other aspects of treatment will involve correcting any factors that contributed to the original injury. There is some evidence that unsupportive footwear is a risk factor, along with poor biomechanics and weak muscles that provide inadequate support to the skeletal system during activity. Speak to your physiotherapist if you suspect you may have a stress fracture or simply want to know more.