Ask the c.Ped – What? Me? A Stress Fracture?

Helen Russell

Helen Russell is the owner of Metro Run and Walk with her husband Mark. She is a certified pedorthist and has completed several marathons!

So, sadly, I speak from personal experience this month.  About 3 weeks ago, I was out on a run, about 3.5 miles into it when I suddenly experienced a good deal of pain in my left foot.

Specifically, my forefoot.  Odd, I thought.  I’m in pretty good shape… I run regularly… my shoes are pretty new.  What is this pain? The pain was significant enough that I walked the last part of my run.

Being a human being, of course, I tried to ignore the “discomfort” for several days.  It didn’t matter that I’ve been through hundreds of hours of training on podiatric problems, I was in charge, not my foot!

I’m embarrassed to say that for the next two weeks, I tried to ignore what I suspected was the problem.  I wore stiff-soled shoes.  I took a break from running.  I iced.  I shifted my gait to the medial part of my foot.  All to no avail.  My foot was not cooperating.  It was continually swollen and painful.  Sometimes excruciating, sometimes merely painful.

It was time… time to see the Podiatrist.  Off I went only to be told what I knew… I had stress fractures; consigned to wear a “mini-boot;’ a non-bending medical shoe that prevents my forefoot from bending and allows it to heal.

Ugh… so ugly… but wait… I can walk without pain.  Maybe not fast, but no pain! Ok, maybe not so ugly after all. So here I am one week after adopting my new shoe and the swelling is much reduced, the pain is much reduced, and my foot is healing.

I bought a bike (from The Bike Lane, of course) and have started biking as a new means of exercising and staying fit.  Two weeks ago, I would have said I hated biking.  Now, when asked I say “it’s not terrible.”  Truth be told, I sort of like it.  I don’t know a thing about biking, but I like the challenge of learning, building new training routines and developing new muscles.  Who knows?  Maybe a duathlon is in my future.  Of couse, only after my foot is completely healed and I’m back to running.

So, what is a stress fracture?  A stress fracture is an overuse injury. It occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack called a stress fracture.  Stress fractures occur in the lower leg (tibia) and forefoot (metatarsals).

Stress fractures usually have only a few symptoms. A stress fracture could present as a generalized area of pain and tenderness associated with weight bearing.  Pain and swelling is often present on the top of the foot.  Stress fractures are sometimes not seen on x-rays until healing begins.

For more information about stress fractures, check out the following articles:

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:  http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00112

American Family Physican:  http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/1015/p1527.html

Mayo Clinic:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-fractures/DS00556

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