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Stress fractures/Injuries

What is Stress Fractures/Injuries?

 A stress fracture occurs when a bone is unable to handle repetitive loads put through it and cause localised pain over an area of bone. At first this starts as an injury which causes pain in which a stress fracture is a progression of this and is a small bone break. Stress Fractures must be treated to ensure that do not get worse.

What causes stress fractures/injuries?

Stress Fractures/injuries can be commonly found in both high level athletes and inactive people, woman are more likely to sustain this injury than men. It can be caused by:

  • a sudden increase in physical activity or training
  • biomechanical factors such as muscle strength, footwear and technique
  • diet and nutrition
  • genetic factors.
  • high training loads
  • hormonal balance
  • systemic bone illnesses and steroidal or anticonvulsant medications

How do I know if I have stress fractures/injuries?

You may have a stress fracture/injury if you:

  • Have pain near the affected area
  • May only hurt during activities such as running, jumping and walking
  • May cause pain at night when resting

Bone stress injuries can occur anywhere although the most common sites in the foot are:

  • the bone connecting to the fifth toe on the outside of the foot (fifth metatarsal)
  • the bone connecting to the second toe in the middle of the foot (second metatarsal)
  • the bony knob on the inside of the ankle (medial malleolus).
  • the small bone on the inside of the foot below the ankle (navicular)

How can physiotherapy help with stress fractures/injuries?

Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose and assess your injury by going though some tests. It is important have the right diagnosis so that you receive the correct treatment. You may be referred to a doctor to investigate and manage any nutritional, mineral or hormone deficiencies. You also may need to complete scans so that your physiotherapist can correctly treat you. This will most likely be an MRI.

It must be identified what is overloading the bone in which it should be decreased or stopped temporarily to allow the bone to heal. It may be necessary to have a cast or boot on in this time frame. Your physiotherapist will advise you on what course of action should be taken.

What can I do at home?

You should ensure you are following your physiotherapists instructions to allow maximum recover in minimal time. Your physiotherapist may advise you to complete exercises at home on the unaffected leg to ensure that you keep your strength up.

How long will my recovery be?

At least 6 weeks is recommended of offloading followed by a gradual increase  in activity for up to 3 months. This depends on the type of activity or sport you are going back to. More complex injuries could take up to 12 months for full resolution.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.