“Sticks and stones may break your bones.” But did you know that some of these fractures can also happen due to wear and tear?
Usually when we think about breaking bones, the first thing that comes to mind is physical trauma. And while this is commonly thought to be the main cause for this type of injury, accumulation of forces over a period of time can result in bone fractures, too.
Now, this gradual onset presents a huge problem – since bone fractures that are caused by repetitive impacts come about gradually and may not necessarily be as painful as traumatic fractures, people often don’t give this type of injury the attention it deserves.
That’s a big mistake!
When left untreated, stress fractures will likely become worse – especially as you continue to participate in your favorite sports activities without proper footwear and training. Next thing you know, your running routine gets cut short because of the pain, or your performance on the soccer field begins to suffer.
So instead of pushing through the pain and ignoring the problem, do something about it before you get sidelined for good.
But first, let’s find out what causes stress fractures in the first place …
Get the Lowdown on Stress Fractures
Unlike bone fractures that happen due to isolated incidents, stress fractures are sports injuries that develop gradually over time. Athletes who participate in activities that involve a lot of running and jumping are the main demographic for this type of injury – as their feet absorb constant forces (which can total up to 4 times one’s body weight!), tiny cracks start to develop on the surface of bones.
Now, given enough rest time, these hairline fractures will heal. This is what we call the remodeling process, where bones undergo a “renovation” cycle in order to more efficiently bear the physical forces that come with walking, running, and jumping.
On the other hand, when you don’t give your body enough time to replace old, broken bone cells with new, healthy ones, your bone tissue will continue to become weaker and weaker, and those tiny fractures will become bigger and bigger.
As such, you can expect your pain level to increase as the injury gets worse. This pain will, of course, be at its worst during and immediately after activity, and diminish with rest. The location of the fracture is often quite tender, and you may experience some swelling as well.
That said, becoming a couch potato is definitely not the answer – the health benefits that come with exercising definitely outweigh the potential risk factors, and knowing how to avoid painful foot injuries is a much better option.
Know How to Treat and Prevent Stress Fractures
As you’ve probably already have guessed, the best way to treat and prevent stress fractures is to allow your lower limbs to fully heal before challenging the injured area again. In severe cases, we may recommend you wear a brace or walking boot.
Surgery is rarely necessary, but if these stress fractures have developed in areas that have a poor blood supply, surgical intervention may be your best option for optimal recovery.
The good news is that most stress fractures can be treated at home by simply kicking your feet up and applying ice to the injured area in 20-minute increments. It’s also important that you ease back into physical activities once the injury has fully healed. This will help reduce your risk of re-injury.
But even better than properly treating stress fractures is avoiding this problem altogether. And, fortunately, there are many simple steps you can take to do just that. Here are a few:
- Wear the right shoes. They should always be appropriate for your activity of choice, fit properly, and offer plenty cushioning and arch support to help evenly distribute forces across your feet.
- Take your time. Whether you are just starting a workout program or have decided to ramp up your existing routine, make sure you do so gradually.
- Do some cross-training. Not only will incorporating low-impact activities into your workout regimen lower your risk of injury, but it will also lead to greater overall levels of fitness.
- Watch what you eat. Proper nutrition is an essential part of making sure your bones are healthy and strong, so eat foods that contain calcium and other minerals and vitamins.
Don’t Push Through the Pain – Get the Relief You Need Today!
Stress fractures may not seem like a big deal, but the truth is you don’t want one to keep you from doing the things you love – and given time, stress fractures will definitely hold you back.
So if you suspect you have developed this painful condition, give our office a call today. We will be happy to get you back on your feet – without pain – as quickly and as safely as possible. You can reach our Oklahoma City office at (405) 947-8041 or our Enid office at (580) 237-3338 to make an appointment, or simply fill out our online contact form.