Exercise is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and will almost never be discouraged by your doctor. But, like for most things, following a plan and becoming acclimated will be far more beneficial than jumping in too far, too soon! By building up your body’s tolerance to the rigors of your chosen exercise you can be sure that injury will occur less frequently. This is especially true regarding stress fractures of the lower extremity!

        Your legs and feet are at the bottom of your body and they suffer the abuse of running and jumping associated with exercise first-hand. Repetitive motions and the subsequent impacts cause the parts of the bones that are absorbing the most shock to wear down or weaken. If you’ve ever changed up your exercise habits suddenly or increased the intensity of your runs you may have noticed your shins or feet began to hurt during exercise. These may be signs of a stress fracture, usually a small break in one of the metatarsals of the foot. 

(Picture of the foot from emoryhealthcare.org)

        If you think you might have a stress fracture, the best thing to do is to rest the foot! (Stop running.) There may be some light bruising, swelling or redness around the area that is hurting. Of course, elevating your affected limb and utilizing ice packs will help decrease pain and swelling!

        Depending on the severity of your stress fracture, you may need a special shoe or boot that takes the weight off of your fracture site. In worst-case scenarios, a cast and crutches will be what are required to get you back to 100 percent.

        In situations where bone is the healing tissue there are many factors that can affect the speed of recovery. Patients who are diabetic or smokers will find themselves with a stress fracture for significantly longer than their counterparts who do not have compromised vascularity. Proper nutrition that includes a lot of Calcium and adequate rest will ensure the right environment for bone healing. 

(Radiograph from newyorkfootexperts.com)

**** Runners that take a break for winter should use caution when returning to their exercise regimen and begin at a lower level to protect their bones! ****

        Exercise, however, is not always the culprit when a stress fracture is suspected. In patients with Osteoporosis or a general decreased bone density, fractures can occur from normal activity. (Walking, Standing or Using the stairs.)

        Women athletes, especially very slim ones, have been found to be at an increased risk for stress fractures due to hormonal imbalances and their subsequent disposition to Osteoporosis.   

     Whether you are very active or only take the occasional stroll, it is important to maintain a balance between the many factors related to bone and foot health.

           Be safe and keep those feet happy!