Exercising regularly is good for you, but it is also important to know when to take a break when you start to experience discomfort or pain during activity.
A stress fracture is a common overuse injury in exercising that can gradually develop without you realising till it is too late.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks on the bone that are caused by accumulated damage to the bone when there is repeated impact on the same area and develop when the muscles are fatigued and can no longer absorb the shock of over-exercising.
Types of Stress Fractures
Here are various types of stress fractures.
Metatarsal Stress Fracture
The metatarsal is the long bones in the foot that link the ankle to the toes and the pain or swelling is visible towards the front or middle of the foot. This injury is common in gymnasts, ballet dancers and hikers whose activities place continued stress on their feet. Those with osteoporosis are also at high risk of this injury.
Navicular Stress Fracture
This type of stress fracture is characterised by pain across the inside arch of the foot or a vague mid-foot ache past the ankle joint. They happen because compressive forces are focused on this bone when the foot hits the ground during landing. This type of injury is most common in high impact sports such as sprinting, jumping, hurdling and football.
Tibia Stress Fracture
The tibia bone is the larger of the two shin bones in each leg and it cracks when the muscles cannot absorb stress, which is created by repeated pounding of the foot on hard surfaces. Pain increases with activity and decreases at rest. This type of stress fracture is common amongst runners, gymnasts and volleyball players.
Rib Stress Fracture
This injury is characterised by pain on the side of the neck, upper back or the back of the shoulder that is enhanced by deep breathing or coughing. It is typically when the first rib cracks. This is common in sports involving vigorous shoulder movements such as rowing, dance and windsurfing.
Hip Stress Fracture
Athletes with this injury experience aching groin pain which may worsen when lying down or when the foot hits the ground when running or hopping. It is characterised by an injury to the ball of the hip joint and is common in endurance runners, military recruits and mid-impact sports athletes.
How To Prevent Stress Fractures
Cross training is one way to keep stress fractures at bay. Besides that though, you can also have a diet high in calcium rich foods to support bone growth. Athletes should also change their sports shoes after every 500-800km because shoes lose their cushioning and support over time.
Treating Stress Fractures
If you think you have a stress fracture, stop your sport immediately and see a doctor. A stress fracture takes about 6-12 weeks to heal completely depending on the severity. If you need to stay fit though, try engaging in low impact workouts such as swimming and aqua running, that will not put pressure on the joints.
If stress fractures are left untreated, they can lead to the bone fractures, which will require a much longer lay-off time from your sport, from one to two years.
This article has been adapted from https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/healthplus/search-results?hplust=Sport.