If you've developed pain in your foot after increasing the duration or intensity of training for a marathon, you may have developed a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a fairly common injury among athletes. These occur in your feet because they absorb so much shock when you run. You want to seek treatment in the early stages, or else a stress fracture can become serious enough to keep you from running for weeks or months. Here is a quick overview of why a stress fracture occurs and how it is treated.
What Causes Stress Fractures
A stress fracture is a tiny fracture in a bone in your foot that develops slowly. This is different from a sudden injury or broken bone. For a stress fracture to develop, you have to have repeated stress on your feet. This might happen if you begin running for a longer time than usual without gradually building up to the new distance. You might also get a stress fracture if you frequently run in worn-out shoes or shoes that don't support your feet properly. When your foot isn't supported when you run, your muscles get fatigued and pass some of the impact onto your bones, which might not be strong enough to absorb the shock from repeated jolts as you run. Eventually tiny fractures develop that cause pain when running. The pain may be mild at first but gradually get worse as the days and weeks go by until you get treatment.
How a Stress Fracture Is Treated
If you suspect you have a stress fracture in your foot, you should see a podiatrist experienced in sports medicine. The first step is to make a diagnosis, which may be done primarily by physical examination. A stress fracture doesn't always show up on a bone scan or x-ray. Your podiatrist may order an MRI instead, since it is more likely to detect tiny fractures. The main treatment for a stress fracture is to rest your foot so the bone can heal. If you're training for an important race that you can't afford to miss, your podiatrist might consider surgery, as surgery will often heal a stress fracture more quickly than letting it heal on its own. However, surgery is not a common treatment, especially for amateur athletes. Instead, your doctor may give you crutches, a boot, or a knee walker to keep you off your foot for a few weeks until the pain goes away.
When the pain has been gone for a few weeks, you'll be ready to begin physical therapy to get the strength back in your foot and leg. If you want to continue to train while your foot is healing, your podiatrist may allow you to swim or cycle so you can stay in shape. Then once your bone has healed enough, you'll begin a series of structured exercises that restore your foot and ankle to normal function and range of motion.
How to Keep a Fracture from Coming Back
Since a stress fracture can keep you off your feet for several weeks, you will want to avoid getting one when you're a runner. The first thing is to figure out why you got the fracture in the first place. If it is due to gait mechanics, your podiatrist may prescribe orthotics that support your arches, heels, and ankles for you to wear in your shoes. Also, you'll want to buy new shoes on a regular schedule and switch them out often. As a runner, you'll go through shoes quickly, since once shoes are worn down, they won't offer much support. In addition, be sure to follow your trainer's advice on ramping up your training schedule in the future. Doing too much too fast is seldom the best choice, since an injury like a stress fracture will cause you to lose all the time you thought you were going to gain by pushing yourself hard.
Make an appointment with an office like Elmhurst Podiatry Center Ltd to get started healing.