Stress fractures can put a serious dent in your passion for running, so what can you do to avoid them, writes Nandini Reddy
Have you ever felt extreme pain in your feet that you had to stop running? It is not a slight discomfort in the shin or a sore muscle, this sort of pain doesn’t let you run even after the usual stretching and short period of rest. This sort of injury may be a stress fracture and you might need to see your medical practitioner immediately. This injury is by far the most frustrating injury for any passionate runner. This is not a soft tissue injury that will repair itself with a week of rest. You need at least 6-8 weeks of rest and there have been even cases that required assisted walking with crutches.
Understanding the stress fracture
Runners can get a stress fracture in a wide variety of region such as the shin bone, the thigh bone, ankles and calf bone. The intensity of the fracture can be low or high. If it is a low risk fracture, then it would heal on its own. This type of fracture usually occurs at the shin or ankle. If you have a high-risk fracture, then a longer period of rest is required. Returning to running is a slower and more cautious process. The areas of these fracture need extra care and heal slowly. But for runners the chances of getting a high-risk fracture are fairly low.
The important thing to keep in mind though is to be aware of the symptoms. A stress fracture typically feels like a localized burning pain on the bone. If you apply pressure on the area, it will hurt and as you run the pain will increase. The muscle around the bone where the stress fracture occurs can feel tight also. You should see an orthopedist if you suspect a stress fracture.
How can you avoid Stress Fractures?
It is important to maintain a good training schedule. If you over train or if your running form is incorrect then you are likely to get a stress fracture. One of the best approaches is to ensure that you do not experience stress fractures is to have your training schedule wetted by a coach. You have to give yourself recovery days. If you experience the first symptoms of a stress fracture, it is best to take some time off and re-organise your training schedule. You can reduce your training schedule by 10 -20 % until you recover fully and then slowly build your mileage on recovery.
If your running form is incorrect for example your stride frequency is off point, then increase your chance of developing a stress fracture. You need to maintain a stride frequency of 180 strides/minute. If you feel pain that you suspect might be stress fracture, then you need to reduce the stride frequency.
Returning to running after recovery
Once you have recovered, you should try and get back with short sessions. You can start with interval training runs in a walk and run combination. Then you can progress to slow jogging and build your distance before you start running again.
Be aware about pains that linger and do not reduce even after proper rest. Return to your doctor if the pain returns.