Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. These tiny breaks develop when repetitive forces placed on the bone exceed its ability to absorb them and repair itself. When the muscles become too fatigued to absorb the extra forces, the bone gets damaged and the tiny fractures appear.
Stress fractures usually occur in athletes who play tennis and basketball due to repetitive running and jumping. They often develop on the metatarsals (toe bones) on the foot and the calcaneus (heel bone). Other common stress fracture sites include the tibia, femur and pelvis.
Symptoms of stress fractures include pain when engaging in the physical activity. The area may also become swollen, though the bone might appear normal on a regular x-ray. These findings usually necessitate the need to do a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Stress fractures are treated by resting and not engaging in the activity that caused the injury. The limb should be rested for a period of up to eight weeks since this is the duration that it takes for most stress fractures to heal. Shoe inserts and braces can also be worn to help the injured bones heal.
Stress fractures can be prevented by cross training or alternating activities to achieve fitness goals. For example a person who wants to lose weight should not just run every day. They can bike, run and swim to achieve their exercise goals.
Exercising with the proper equipment, like well-fitting running shoes, is another thing that athletes can do to prevent these injuries. This should be combined with eating foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D to keep the bones healthy.
Written by: Marian Kim, FizzNiche Staff Writer