When people hear the term “broken bone,” they often picture a leg or arm in a cast and perhaps assume that the injury happened on account of a traumatic incident. Obviously, bones break in that manner, but there are also fractures that simply stem from overuse and fatigued body parts. These stress fractures are actually quite common and understanding this condition can be useful for preventing it from happening.
Understanding Stress Fractures
A stress fracture is a tiny crack in one of the bones, often those in either the lower legs or feet. As with anything that breaks, this condition stems from a certain degree of force. The key distinction is that instead of happening all at once, the pressure causing a stress fracture is compounded over time.
Known as overuse injuries, these often result when the muscles in the feet or lower legs, which usually help absorb the tremendous amount of pressure that accompanies walking and running, are fatigued and do not perform that function as well as intended. This leaves the bones in the lower limbs to pick up the slack and take on the additional stress.
Feet utilize a biomechanical process called pronation to help distribute the forces in an equitable fashion. There are two inherent foot structure abnormalities—high arches and flat feet—that affect this particular process and increase the likelihood of stress fractures.
Stress Fracture Symptoms and Risk Factors
The primary symptom of this type of fracture is the pain experienced in the affected
area. Typically, the pain starts out relatively mild, but then worsens as time progresses. Other symptoms that may be observed include tenderness and swelling.
Factors that potentially increase the risk of developing a stress fracture include:
- Athletic activity. Individuals who play sports on hard surfaces have a greater risk of this injury.
- Increased physical activity. People who suddenly ramp up activity levels, especially those who go from sedentary lifestyles to active ones are more likely to suffer a fracture.
- Arch abnormalities. Whether too low or too high, arches that are not normal in height make it more likely for a stress fracture in the foot or lower leg.
- Osteoporosis. Conditions that weaken the bones make it more likely to be hurt from lower levels of pressure than usual.
Preventing Stress Fractures
One of the good things about stress fractures is that there are several measures you can use to prevent them from happening to you in the first place. These include such acts as:
- Strength exercises. Strengthening the muscles in the lower legs can help prevent them from becoming fatigued early. This will help ensure that they are able to continue adequately handling the forces that accompany walking or running and not leave them for your bones.
- Proper footwear. Running shoes that have ample cushioning will help to absorb the shock of impact with every step that could otherwise be potentially absorbed by your bones instead. Be sure to replace your footwear once the cushioning begins to wear down.
- Cross-training. Running is certainly a fantastic way to stay in shape, but mixing in low-impact exercises like swimming, yoga, and bicycling provides an even greater overall fitness. Even better, doing so can also help prevent stress fractures from happening.
- Eat well. Ensuring that your bones have the proper nutrients to stay strong is an intelligent way to decrease the risk of these painful injuries. Incorporate foods into your diet that contain essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, for your optimal health.
Expert Stress Fracture Care in Loxahatchee, FL
Prevention tips can certainly reduce your risk of stress fractures, but there is still a chance that you will require professional care. If that time comes, Palm Beach Podiatrist is ready to help. Our knowledgeable, caring staff will provide the effective treatment you need for optimal healing. Call us at (561) 734-3100 for our Boynton Beach office, (561) 791-7773 for our Loxahatchee office, or (772) 468-0089 for our Fort Pierce, FL office to schedule your appointment.