Insight Orthopedics & Sports Medicine – Whether you are a professional athlete or a casual runner, you may be at risk for a stress fracture. Stress fractures happen when muscles become strained from overexertion, transferring stress to the bones in the lower leg where tiny cracks can form. Stress fractures are caused by a number of reasons, including excessive physical activity, overuse without proper rest, working out on multiple surfaces, and using the wrong shoes or equipment.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps we can take to prevent stress fractures, and if they do occur, stress fractures can be repaired with proper rest and treatment. Here is a brief overview on stress fracture treatment and steps you can take to prevent them.

Stress Fracture Treatment

Once the location and severity of the athlete’s stress fracture(s) is diagnosed, treatment can begin. Treatment protocols can range from a simple period of rest to casting, bracing, physical therapy, or even surgery, depending on the type and number of fractures, and/or the specific bone(s) affected.

Rest: The first and often most important component of any stress fracture treatment program is to stop the activity that led to the stress fracture. The rest period typically lasts from four to eight weeks and may include simply switching to a lower-impact sport (i.e. changing from running to cycling or swimming). In some cases, patients may need to significantly decrease or even stop physical activity altogether.

Protective Footwear:  Patients with stress fractures in their foot or ankle may need to wear special orthopedic footwear during the rest period to help reduce impact stress during the activities of daily living. Examples of protective footwear include:

  • Stiff-soled shoes or shoe inserts that prevent the flexing or bending of the foot
  • A wood-soled therapeutic sandal
  • A removable fracture brace that encases the foot and ankle

Stress Fracture Prevention

Stress fractures are often preventable if athletes adhere to appropriate training regimens and dietary habits. Common medical recommendations for reducing the risk of stress fracture include:

  • Wearing appropriate footwear and other protective gear designed for each sport an athlete plays. Footwear should be routinely inspected and replaced often. Always avoid playing sports in worn-out footwear and/or protective equipment.
  • Increasing exercise intensity gradually over a period of weeks or months to help the body adjust to each new level and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Allow the same period of adjustment whenever changing sports or playing surfaces, such as switching from sprinting to distance running or from natural turf to artificial turf.

For more information about stress fractures, prevention, and treatment, contact Insight Orthopedics & Sports Medicine to schedule an appointment.