Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. They are caused by repetitive force, often from overuse such as repeatedly jumping up and down or running long distances. Stress fractures can also develop from normal use of a bone that is weakened by a condition such as osteoporosis.
Stress fractures are most common in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. Track and field athletes and military recruits who carry heavy packs over long distances are at highest risk, but anyone can sustain a stress fracture. If you start a new exercise program, for example, you might develop stress fractures if you do too much too soon.
At first, you might barely notice the pain associated with a stress fracture, but it tends to worsen with time. The tenderness usually starts at a specific spot and decreases during rest. You might have swelling around the painful area.
Certain sports. Stress fractures are more common in people who engage in high-impact sports, such as track and field, basketball, tennis, dance or gymnastics.
Increased activity. Stress fractures often occur in people who suddenly shift from a sedentary lifestyle to an active training regimen or who rapidly increase the intensity, duration or frequency of training sessions.
Gender. Women, especially those who have abnormal or absent menstrual periods, are at higher risk of developing stress fractures.
Foot problems. People who have flat feet or high, rigid arches are more likely to develop stress fractures. Worn footwear contributes to the problem.
Weakend Bones. Conditions such as osteoporosis can weaken your bones and make it easier for stress fractures to occur.
Physiotherapy improves muscle flexibility and strength and aids in bone healing. Strong muscles and bones may help absorb the stress of high-impact activities and prevent another fracture from occurring.
The physiotherapist will educate you on modified exercises and other techniques designed to reduce the impact an activity has on the injured bone. For example, slight changes in how your feet touch the ground while running may shift the point of impact, protecting the bone.
To help you return to your previous level of activity, our physical therapists recommend starting with simple stretches and exercises, such as swimming, which put no weight on the bones. If these activities do not cause any pain, physiotherapist may recommend additional no-impact weight-bearing activities, such as certain types of yoga.