It sure is nice to throw the icicles and freezing rain behind us. Springtime brings nice weather and all of us out of hibernation from the winter. It is time to get back running and getting back into shape. One problem that can occur when we jump back into the swing of things is developing pain in the foot or ankle. When we start back running or working out we put our body under increased stress that it has not been used to. This increase in stress can cause stress fractures to develop in the foot or ankle.
Stress fractures are considered an overuse injury. The repeated stress from activity or running causes the muscles to fatigue; when the muscle can’t absorb the stress anymore it transfers the stress to the bones. If the stress on the bones is too high it can form small fractures in the bone called stress fractures. Stress fractures can arise not only from high level activity but any change in gait pattern or activity level.
- Pain localized to the area of the stress fracture
- Pain is generally gradual and improves with offloading the area
- Pain with normal or high level activities
- Edema or swelling to the area
- Stop all activity and rest
- Immobilization of the area with a cast or walking boot
- Icing the area
- Compression of the area with ankle sleeve or ace wrap
Stress fractures can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to completely heal. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise! Swimming is a great, low-impact activity for the foot, and in some cases biking is allowed. Prevention of stress fractures include a healthy diet containing plenty of calcium and vitamin D, gradual increase in exercises and even alternating forms of exercise, proper support in exercise equipment and shoes, and exercise programs which strengthen the lower leg and foot muscles and tendons.