Stress fractures are fractures of a bone because of overuse. Athletes who change their activities or start intense training too quickly are at risk for stress fractures. Stress fractures are most common in runners and gymnasts, but are not exclusive to any athlete.
All stress fractures can lead to problems if not allowed time to heal. However, some stress fractures are more concerning then others because of their location (hip, spine) or because of poor blood supply (foot).
Pain is the main complaint with stress fractures. Early on, the pain may be at the beginning of an activity and then subside. More advanced injuries may have pain throughout the activity as well as pain at rest.
Examination by a physician and the patient’s complaints are the most helpful to diagnosis a stress fracture. Early in the process, x-rays may look normal. Depending on the location, additional tests may be recommended such as a bone scan or an MRI.
Most stress fractures will heal with a combination of activity modification (rest, cross-training), immobilization, and medication. Other interventions may include orthotics, therapy, and technique training to prevent recurrent injuries.