Stress Fractures from Too Much Exercise Too Fast

Losing weight is one of the top resolutions chosen each year and 2020 is no exception. People everywhere are hitting the gyms with their new membership or jumping on their Pelotons at home to kickstart their weight loss. But doing too much too fast can be bad for your feet.

Too much exercise too fast can lead to stress fractures. These hairline fractures can easily go unnoticed or brushed off as a minor pain when really, any stress fracture needs to be dealt with by a podiatrist right away. Overuse of any part of the body can lead to injury. The repetitive stress placed on the bones of your feet can create cracks leading to foot pain.


How Does a Stress Fracture Occur?

Stress fractures are some of the most common injuries associated with new or changes in activities. A stress fracture, a tiny crack in the surface of the bone, can happen with sudden increases in exercise (such as running or walking for longer distances or times), improper training techniques, or a change in exercise surfaces. When our muscles are unable to absorb the shock of these activities, the energy is transferred onto the bone, which can result in a stress fracture.


What Does a Stress Fracture Feel Like?

The most common sign of a stress fracture is pain. This pain will be present during activities that were previously easy and pain-free and diminish with periods of rest. The area may feel weak and unsupportive. Depending on the site of the fracture, there may be pinpointed pain when you press directly over it. Swelling is sometimes present in the top of the foot and the ankle. Bruises can, but do not often, appear over the site of the injury.


Where Do Stress Fractures Occur?

Stress fractures most often occur in the feet and lower leg bones as these absorb the majority of the shock from walking, running, sports, exercise, and general daily activities. Specifically, stress fractures are likely to be seen in the second and third metatarsal bones (the long bones connected to the bones of the toes), in the heel bone, and in the bone under your ankle (the navicular).


How Bad is a Stress fracture?

Although most stress fractures are not serious, it is important to remember that they can become serious if not taken care of properly and right away. You should seek medical attention for any suspected fracture. Without the proper care, a stress fracture may develop into a full bone fracture, which can require casting and immobilization.


How Is a Stress Fracture Diagnosed?

A foot doctor can quickly and easily determine if a fracture is present and prescribe proper treatment. Many times, a simple x-ray can determine the presence of a stress fracture. Your podiatrist will also ask you questions about recent activities and examine you for other potential injuries.


What is the Treatment for a Stress Fracture?

Treatment for a stress fracture is simple: discontinue the activity that caused the fracture. This doesn’t mean that you have to become a couch potato, but changing to a different, less stressful, and low impact activity is important. Try switching from running to swimming, from tennis to tai chi, or from basketball to yoga. There are dozens of activities that can help you reach those fitness goals while your stress fracture heals. 


How Do I Prevent a Stress Fracture?

If you are starting a new activity, don’t try to go all out all at once. Set small goals and slowly step up your workout as your health improves. Cross-training is also important to any workout plan. Repetitive motion is the enemy, so alternate between cardiovascular exercise and weight training. A good variety of activities not only reduces the chances of a stress fracture, but it also helps you create a well-rounded exercise plan that works your entire body. 

Make sure you pay attention to the little details too. Those old running shoes that you just pulled out of the back of your closet may need to be replaced. Worn out or improper equipment can be very detrimental to your feet. A healthy diet is also a factor in preventing stress fractures. Diets that incorporate calcium and vitamin-D help maintain bone density and strength, which reduces the risk of fracture. This is especially important in women, who are more likely to have significant bone loss as they age.


Only about 8% of people who make a New Year’s resolution keep with it long enough to achieve it. Don’t let the pain of a foot or ankle injury derail you from your goal. If you aren’t sure what your feet are capable of, start out slow. Our podiatrists can help you determine the best activities for your foot health and offer preventative measures to protect you in your new or continuing endeavors. If you suspect that you have a stress fracture, call and make an appointment. Remember, healthy feet and ankles are the foundation of an active lifestyle.

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