Stress Fractures and Correct Exercise

When it comes to exercising, we need to be careful not to overdo it; this can lead to injuries including muscle strains, ligament strains and stress fractures.

Unfortunately, an injury can cut down on your momentum when you are trying to maintain a healthy exercise regime, therefore it is important to try and avoid stress fractures and other injuries wherever possible.

What is a stress fracture?

Stress fractures are small fractures that occur within the bones because of over-exercising or exercising incorrectly. They are also referred to as fatigue fractures, because they happen over time.  Here you can see an X-ray of someone with a stress fracture in their metatarsal (forefoot).  It looks small, but if you keep running on that foot it’ll never go away.

Poor exercising form

When you are lifting weights, running, jogging, or even walking – doing it wrong repeatedly can lead to a stress fracture. Stress fractures are very often injuries of impact, which means they occur most often in athletes who run or jump continuously on hard surfaces.

This means the likes of basketball-players; ballerinas, long distance runners and even long jumpers are at risk for stress fractures. If you suddenly start increasing your levels of exercise in a short time, your bones don’t have the time needed to strengthen in the areas where they are experiencing stress. This extra stress can cause fractures.

Stress fractures and your diet

Eating badly can increase the chances of contracting a stress fracture. Bad nutrition, anorexia and bulimia can all affect the chances of getting a stress fracture. It has also been found that menstruation (amenorrhea) can be a contributing factor to stress fractures in women, especially adolescent females.

Common Stress Fractures

Stress fractures, by their very nature, can occur in any bone, but are most commonly found in the feet and ankles. This makes sense – the feet absorb the majority of the body’s weight when exercising. The arms, in comparison, are not concerned with supporting the upper body.

Detecting a stress fracture

When exercising, to improve fitness or even to lose fat and build muscle, using the correct form is imperative. Using bad form over a period of time could easily lead to stress fractures. The problem with stress fractures is that they can go undetected for ages – they may not cause the levels of pain associated with a chronic fracture.

Over time, this stress fracture will worsen and become more and more painful, eventually leading to increased inflammation in the area in which it occurs. They are also difficult to diagnose from an X-ray – they are most often diagnosed when doctors notice an area of bone healing.

To conclude

Stress fractures can be dangerous because they are often undetected, both by the person suffering from them and their doctor. Because of this, people will continue to exercise, which just worsens the condition.

Often this condition is self-diagnosed by people who notice the injury as swelling or discomfort because of over-exercise. The important thing to remember – if it hurts, your body is trying to tell you something.

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