You may have heard about stress fractures in the foot as a runner. These types of fine breaks are extremely common and can often go undiagnosed. There are a few symptoms that are completely overlooked, but this can lead to further complications.
It’s important to keep an eye on any signs of a stress fracture. You need to look after your body, as it’s the only one you’ve got. If you miss the signs of a stress fracture or ignore some of the symptoms, you could end up with a much more serious break. You’ll be left off your foot for much longer, as the bones heal.
Catching the symptoms early could mean that the fracture is minor. These minor fractures take less time to heal, so you’ll be back on your feet much sooner than you expected.
You want to be able to put all your effort into running, right? Well, here are the most common stress fracture in foot symptoms to look out for, so you can seek treatment right away.
A Stress Fracture Is a Break
We tend to overlook fractures because we don’t put them in the same category as a break. The stress fracture is usually this hairline fracture that just doesn’t seem as serious. We don’t want to put a stop to our training and believe that we should be able to push past the pain.
The problem is that a stress fracture is a break. You need to get out of the mindset of believing otherwise. Once you accept that you do have a break in your foot – even the slightest – you’ll be able to seek treatment and strengthen your bones.
Because the fracture is a break, you should expect many of the same symptoms as a full break. One of the most common symptoms is a pain.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that there is a problem. It’s your body’s way of getting you to slow down and even stop. It’s a sign that you need to get the problem checked out before you get back out running.
With a stress fracture in the foot, the pain will usually appear towards the end of your training session. Your adrenaline is running through your body at any other time, so the pain receptors are turned off. As you come to an end, you start to reduce the amount of adrenaline your body is pushing through, so your body can respond to the pain that you’re feeling.
As you ignore this symptom and keep training, the pain will get progressively worse. It may be a slight niggle towards the end of your training at first but will progress to a niggle throughout your exercise. It will then move onto to serious pain that can stop you from putting full weight on your foot if you allow it to get worse.
And you can get the pain at other times of the day – not just when you’re exercising. Some people complain of pain when they are resting, as the adrenaline completely leaves the system. They complain of pain on a night that can stop them from sleeping properly.
As the fracture gets worse, people complain of pain consistently throughout the day. It starts mild but gradually gets worse as the fracture deepens.
You may feel pain similar to shin splits at first. It’s completely localized and something that you feel like you should just run past. After all, many runners suffer from shin splints, and there’s not always something you can do about them, right?
Well, the belief that it’s just shin splits leads to many runners overlooking the stress fracture in their foot. It’s important to listen to your body and the exact area that the pain is felt.
Your Body Will Alert You Through Swelling
Pain isn’t the only way that your body alerts you to a problem. Swelling is another sign. This is due to your body fighting something off. The swelling is supposed to help the healing process.
You may not notice any swelling at first. It’s completely normal to overlook even minor swelling as a normal part of your exercising regime. You just pop your foot in an ice bath and help the cold work on your body.
However, as the stress fracture gets worse, the body finds a way to encourage you to slow down.The swelling gets worse, and you may find that the ice bath just doesn’t work. You can press into the skin, and it doesn’t always bounce back into shape.
The inflammation can also cause some tenderness in the area. This is usually around where the stress fracture has occurred, which will help you get the help that you need. Speak to your doctor and explain where the localized swelling and tenderness is to help locate the exact area of the stress fracture in your foot.
You may also find that there is some bruising around the area. This is common if the blood vessels have been affected by the stress fracture but isn’t necessarily going to appear. Usually, the bruising will appear as the stress fracture gets worse. This could also be a sign of other problems around the stress fracture, such as torn tendons and ligaments.
Are You at Risk of a Stress Fracture?
Now that you have all the physical symptoms, it’s time to see if you’re at risk of a stress fracture in the foot. This is important to know so you can avoid stress fractures from occurring.
In short, every runner is at risk of a stress fracture. It is possible to take steps to avoid them happening if you are careful with your training and listen to your body.
Those who are most at risk will do too much training in a short space of time. You may start running a marathon immediately, rather than giving yourself time to build up the strength and capability. You can run too far, too hard, or too long too soon. It’s essential that you give your body the chance to develop the endurance.
Your bones can adapt to the amount of training that you do. If you progress through the speeds and the distance, your bones will build up strength and get ready for the next level of stress you put on them. Your muscles will also build to help keep too much pressure off your bones.
If you push yourself too much, you force the bones to build before they’re ready. Your bone tissue needs to tear and damage in the building process. So, if you push your activity level too much, you’re putting the pressure on the damaged bone tissue and prevent it from rebuilding stronger. The bone cells aren’t able to absorb the force that you push through them, leading to fractures and tearing.
Certain types of athletes are more at risk of developing stress fractures. It’s not just runners, but those who dance, do gymnastics, play tennis, or play basketball. All these sports have one thing in common: they involve landing on the ground or floor on your feet. They involve this pressure that runs up your bones, damaging the tissues and encourage more rebuilding.
Unfortunately, women are also more at risk than men. Those with abnormal or absent periods are also more likely to suffer stress fractures. This is linked to the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Women tend to absorb less calcium and vitamin D than men, so the bones don’t get the nutrients they need to rebuild stronger and faster.
Of course, those with weakened bones, foot issues, or previous fractures in the foot will find they are more at risk of developing a stress fracture again. If you have high arches or flat feet, your weight is distributed differently, putting you at a high risk.
Reducing the risk of developing a stress fracture isn’t just about slowing down the amount that you or slowing down your progression. You need to eat well to get the right nutrients into your body. It’s essential to listen to any signs that you’re struggling to cope with the level of exercise that you’re doing.
Stress Fractures Can Lead to Chronic Pain
One of the worst symptoms of stress fractures is chronic pain. This is noted in those who haven’t had their stress fractures repaired or treated at any time.
Remember that the pain will just get worse. It starts as a niggle at the end of your training regime, but it can soon build to pain daily. The pain won’t just stick your foot either. It can go into your legs, hips, and even back.
Your body is all connected through nerves. If you upset the nerves in the foot, the body has to counter your balance and the way you do things. You put more pressure on the other foot, and your alignment will completely change. You can end up with more headaches, and the nerves in your back or hips are affected.
Some runners find that they can’t even walk because of the untreated stress fracture. And doctors can overlook the main issue because the pain is no longer localized. In fact, runners forget all about how the pain started and just think about the chronic pain that they have on a daily basis.
And remember that those who have had stress fractures in the past are more likely to develop them in the future. If you have a stress fracture that is untreated, you are at a higher risk of developing more. Your bones aren’t getting the chance to repair and rebuild. That means you’ll get pain in other parts of your body as your bones fracture deeper and further.
This is the biggest reasons to listen to the earlier signs of pain. They’ll save you a world of hurt later on.
Treating Stress Fractures Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Exercise
The good news for those with stress fractures is that you don’t have to forgo exercise completely. You can keep your aerobic fitness up by doing different types of exercise.
Most doctors will encourage you to stay off your feet and don’t run while your feet heal. The chances are that you won’t end up with a cast on your foot but a bandage to help with the healing. You will still be able to swim to keep your fitness levels up. You can also take part in some exercises that don’t involve pressure being placed on your foot. Some runners switch to cycling or rowing instead for a short time until their stress fracture heals.
You can also opt for some weight training to keep your strength up. Building your muscles will also help to strengthen the bone and avoid other stress fractures from occurring since there is another part of your body able to handle the stress.
You should always seek medical advice before you exercise with a stress fracture. The advice will differ depending on the seriousness of your stress fracture and any other damage you may have done by training too quickly too soon.
Look After Your Body to Prevent Stress Fractures
It’s up to you to prevent stress fractures and get them treated as soon as possible if you get them. Only you will be able to experience the symptoms associated with these types of breaks.
Pain is the most common symptoms experienced. If you get any type of niggle, rest your foot and listen to your body the next time you run. If this niggle continues, there is a sign that you have a problem and it could be a stress fracture. Your doctor will be able to test for this through the use of X-rays and MRI scans.
Don’t try to push through the pain. Your body is alerting you to a problem, and you need to listen to it. Overlooking the symptoms will make your stress fracture worse, and the pain will advance into chronic pain if completely ignored.