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Avoid Running (or Exercising) Yourself Into Stress Fractures

Avoid Running (or Exercising) Yourself Into Stress Fractures
9 Jul 12

Avoid Running (or Exercising) Yourself Into Stress Fractures


Overuse or overtraining injuries are common in runners as well as tennis players, basketball players, gymnasts and dancers. This is because repetitive striking motions of the lower extremities impacting with the ground can lead to trauma. When you train too much without rest, your body starts to break down and your bones start to crack; this can lead to a stress fracture. A stress fracture is an injury no athlete wants to endure!

Stress fractures are commonly seen in professional sports. Think of basketball star Yao Ming, who suffered from a foot stress fracture for years, or marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, who fought with a stubborn stress fracture in her femur. However, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to develop a stress fracture; individuals of all activity levels can develop stress fractures.

Unlike a fracture that occurs as the result of sudden trauma, a stress fracture develops over time when a bone is no longer able to support the repetitive stress it takes during each and every workout. Repeated stress weakens your bones and osteoclast cells (cells that remove damaged bone tissues), creating a small fracture on the surface of your bone. While the crack may be small, it can be very painful.  The pain is especially noticeable when participating in weight bearing activities.

When visiting a doctor, a stress fracture is often not visible on a plain x-ray and your doctor will likely order an MRI or bone scan. Your medical history, as well as your athletic history, can also help a doctor to diagnose a stress fracture.

Stress fractures can leave you sidelined from your favorite activities for anywhere from 6  to 12 weeks. Keep in mind stress fractures heal easier if you are healthy and are not a smoker.

To avoid stress fractures altogether, there are a number of actions you can take. For starters, avoid overtraining or increasing the intensity of your workout too quickly. Increase your activity gradually; 10 percent each week is often recommended. This allows your bones time to adjust to the amount of stress you are putting on them. Additionally, make sure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium to help keep your bones strong and healthy.

As a general rule of thumb, if something does not feel right, have it checked out. If you experience persistent pain in your pelvis, shins, feet, thighs or hips, visit with your physician.


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