Stress Fractures / Healthy Lifestyle Changes

What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is a microscopic fracture of the bone that is so small that it often cannot be picked up on X-ray. If left untreated, a stress fracture can cause significant disability and develop into a full fracture, possibly even requiring surgery.

The majority of stress fractures occur in the lower limb, being particularly common in the hip, shins and foot at points where the most force passes through when weight bearing. Most stress fractures are overuse injuries and are common in long distance runners.

What are the symptoms?

As with many overuse injuries, the pain of a stress fracture starts gradually, beginning with pain during or after activity or sometimes the morning after. If activity continues without modification, the pain will gradually increase. Eventually most people are unable to maintain their usual activity level. Stress fractures are very common in runners and in military personnel who are required to march for long periods. A stress fracture will be more likely to occur in a person who has weaker bone strength, such as someone with osteoporosis, which is itself affected by many factors such as calcium intake, vitamin D deficiency and a history of inactivity.

How are stress fractures treated and how long will it take to get better?

Stress fractures can easily be mistaken for other conditions such as shin splints. As the fracture is often too small to show up on X-ray, definitive diagnosis can be made using MRI or bone scan.

After diagnosis, the most important part of treatment will be resting the area to allow the bone to heal before resuming activity. Stress fractures usually need at least 6 weeks to recover fully. Some areas of the body have poor blood supply, which makes healing more complicated. For example, stress fractures of the navicular bone of the foot may need to be kept still and placed in a boot or cast for a period of time to heal properly.
Other aspects of treatment will involve correcting any factors that contributed to the original injury. There is some evidence that unsupportive footwear is a risk factor, along with poor biomechanics and weak muscles that provide inadequate support to the skeletal system during activity. Speak to your physiotherapist if you suspect you may have a stress fracture or simply want to know more.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes To Make This New Year

Most of us start the New Year with some ideas of how we will change our lives for the better. Here are some tips for a better lifestyle and healthier outlook for the coming year.

Be proactive about your health.

Take time to listen to the advice of health care professionals and seek treatment for niggling issues before they become bigger.

Aim to be a little bit more active every week.

You can include any kind of activity, just try to move a little bit more each week. There is nothing more disheartening than starting a new hobby and increasing your program too quickly only to develop an injury that sets you back. Pace yourself with the view of realistically maintaining your new activity.

Take the advice of health professionals.

Physiotherapists know only too well that their advice is not always taken seriously. Unfortunately, some conditions do take hard work and time to resolve. Quick fixes only exist for relatively few conditions and the reality is that problems that develop over a few months don’t resolve overnight. Follow your physio’s advice for the best outcome. (And remember to do your home exercise program!)

Use exercise as a way to improve social and mental wellbeing.

While any amount of exercise will have a positive effect on your mental health, you can use a new hobby to expand your social circle and even improve self-esteem as you find yourself mastering a new skill. Try something a little different!

Pay attention to your diet.

While dietary fads are questionable in their effectiveness, there is no harm in monitoring what you are eating just a little more closely in the New Year. Remember to balance your meals with enough carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Swap sugary drinks for water.

Adequate hydration is an important part of keeping your body functioning well. Sugary drinks can also add a deceptive amount of calories to your daily intake.

None of the information in this newsletter is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual injury.

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