Identify a Stress Fracture

Stress fractures can be described as microscopic hairline cracks in a bone which is why they are also referred to as hairline fractures. They are usually your body’s way of telling you that you have placed stressed upon your bone beyond that which it can take and they are a precursor to a full out fracture (break).

Common Causes

The most common causes of hairline fractures include repetitive pounding that will typically be accompanied by one or more of the following training elements:

  • Poor gear
  • Poor nutrition
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unforgiving terrain
  • Abrupt increase in mileage
  • Inadequate recovery
If you suspect that you have a fracture, this is definitely not something that you want to try and self-diagnose. If you have persistent pain when bearing weight, it’s important to get yourself an x-ray MRI or CT scan as soon as possible before continuing to run. In a way, detecting a hairline fracture is a blessing as it’s basically the early signs of a complete break in the bone. Like a chip in your window that left is left unattended leads to a completely cracked windshield!

Managing a Stress Fracture

While recovering from a hairline fracture can be challenging, it’s definitely not necessarily the end of your running career. You do however need to be willing to adapt to different training styles.

The following question should be carefully addressed:

  • What was it that caused my fracture? (Too much mileage too soon? Lack of variation in running terrain? Too much weight bearing without proper recovery and perhaps nutrition? Poor running gear or a combination of the above?
Recognizing what factors likely contributed to your crossing the proverbial line as far as how much your body can safely take without breaking. The real challenge with recovering from a hairline fracture lies in avoiding weight bearing activities for long enough to allow your bone to heal itself fully. Luckily, thanks to the valuable contributions of those who have incurred stress fractures from running and successfully recovered, you can get back on track to meeting your running goals. While some time off during an aggressive program is acceptable, you can quickly lose some hard earned fitness such as your lactate balance fitness. All said it’s always idea to resume training to maintain fitness without exacerbating your injury. There are some effective cross training activities to choose from that will meet this criteria including cycling, water running, elliptical running and incline treadmill running later in your rehabilitation.

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