A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a weight bearing bone. It can occur in any part of the body but predominantly occur in the lower leg or feet.
Stress fractures are related to overuse where the supporting muscles become fatigued and no longer absorb the continuing stress of the aggravating activity such as running. As a consequence the stress transfers over to the bone and tiny cracks can form.
Possible causes of stress fractures could be: sudden increases in training frequency, intensity or duration; poor conditioning; incorrect technique; change in training surface; poor foot wear; or anatomical variations such as flat feet, or bowed legs or knock knees that may cause an overload on certain bones.
Other factors may also associated with stress fractures such as hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiencies and bone disorders.
- localised pain and tenderness on the site;
- pain is present when exercise and often escalates in the exercise session;
- if a severe stress injury, pain may be present at rest, or on weight bearing.
Stress fractures are often difficult to diagnose and if suspected may require radiological imaging to determine if a stress fracture is present. Stress fractures may require up to 4-12 weeks off the aggravating activity for the fracture to heal. Immobilisation may also be necessary for a short period of time in the initial recovery, and often the individual may return to some cross train activities that do not put stress on the bone, such as cycling, swimming and water running.