A stress fracture is a small incomplete crack in a bone that is due to repeated stress in an area in the body. 95% of stress fractures develop in the lower extremity and account for 10% of all running injuries. Stress fractures are a common injury in runners because of the repeated motion that runners go through over thousands of steps. Stress fractures commonly occur in runners when they have too many miles on their shoes, change the surface they run on, or change the intensity level of their workout.
The symptoms of a stress fracture are tenderness over a localized area, pain when you put weight on the affected limb, and slight swelling around the area. Runners who are most prone to getting stress fractures are women with amenorrhea (loss of menses) because of the role estrogen plays in strengthening bones, thinner athletes, and people who are not getting the proper nutrients to replenish their bones.
It is important as a runner to make sure that you are getting the proper nutrients to keep your bones strong in order to avoid developing stress fractures. It is recommended that you get 1000 mg of Calcium per day and 200 IU of Vitamin D per day, as well as maintaining a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 18.5 or higher and a body fat level of at least 14%. All of these factors will help insure that your bones have the right nutrients to sustain themselves even through daily running stresses.
If you think that you may have a stress fracture then the first thing to do is to decrease the amount of exercise you are doing. It is also important to go see your doctor or podiatrist so they can take an x-ray of the site. X-rays are not always able to detect a stress fracture and a bone scan may be required. Although stress fractures can be frustrating to an athlete who is in training, it is important to listen to your doctor’s instructions to modify your workout routine or you may create a more severe injury that may require surgery and more time away from your sport.