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Stress Fractures

A stress fracture, the most common sports injury, is a tiny crack or in your bone. Caused by repetitive stress, it develops when muscles become fatigued and aren’t able to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscles transfer the overload of stress to the bone.

While more than 50 percent of stress fractures occur in the lower leg, they also develop in the spine, vertebrae, feet and pelvis.

Stress Fracture Symptoms

Localized swelling sometimes occurs at the site of the stress fracture, and there may be spot tenderness when touched. However, stress fractures occur over time, so it’s often difficult to know when the initial injury occurred.

Oftentimes, the pain begins earlier and earlier during exercise, and continues even after the activity is finished. Eventually, you may experience persistent pain with minimal activity, and even at night.

Stress Fracture Risk Factors

Athletes who repeatedly jump up and down or run long distances – such as ­in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, and basketball – are particularly susceptible to stress fractures. Your risk increases without sufficient rest between workouts or competitions. And once you’ve had a stress fracture, you’re at greater risk for having subsequent ones.

Other factors that can increase your risk of stress fractures include:

  • Increased activity: Rapid increase in intensity, duration or frequency of exercise

  • Gender: Women, especially those with abnormal or absent menstrual periods

  • Foot problems: Anyone with flat feet or high, rigid arches
  • Weakened bones: Conditions, such as osteoporosis

  • Lack of nutrients: Deficiencies in vitamin D and calcium, common in eating disorders

Stress Fractures Treatment

The primary treatment for stress fractures is rest. You need to avoid the activity that caused the injury during the six to eight weeks it takes most stress fractures to heal.

If the pain doesn’t respond to rest, or becomes more persistent and severe, see a Summa Health orthopedic specialist. You may require a walking boot or brace, along with a cast or crutches to help keep weight off your injured area until the pain subsides.

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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.