Recognizing and Avoiding Stress Fractures

The other day I was out for a run and felt a shooting pain go up my shin. Immediately I was filled with dread at the thought of a stress fracture. It reminded me of my sophomore year in college. During cross country season we were running 50-60 miles per week which provided plenty of reasons for an overuse injury. As the season progressed, the small pain in my shin became more prominent. My shin was aching as I woke up in the morning, while I sat through class and I had the occasional shooting pain when I stepped on it at the right angle. I approached my trainer about it and told him my symptoms.  They passed it off as serious shin splints. This was because the location of my stress fracture was just below my knee at the thickest part of my shin. They explained that a stress fracture in that location was extremely rare. So I kept running, icing, and occasionally cross training. Eventually, my shin hurt so bad that my dad drove up to Logan and took me to an orthopedic specialist where they performed a *bone scan. For a bone scan, they inject radioactive dye into your arm. This dye then goes throughout your body and if you have any cracks in your bones it will show them in an x-ray. Indeed I had a stress fracture in my shin.

                                            (I had to include at least one fun picture! :) )

For all you novice runners out there here are a few facts about stress fractures so you can avoid becoming a victim of them.

What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is a break or crack in a bone caused from a repetitive force. Runners are especially prone to them in the shin or foot.

If I feel one coming on, what is the best thing to do?
Rest. Most doctors suggest 4-6 weeks of rest or relief from whatever caused it. Cycling or cross training is usually safe as long as there is minimal impact. After every workout the athlete should be icing their injured area for at least 10 minutes. For more serious breaks, a boot or cast may be prescribed.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include: pain in a specific area, swelling, dull aching feeling, pain at rest, and pain during activity.


  1.  Strengthening exercises (this will be covered in future posts). 
  2. Changing your shoes regularly.
  3.  Most experts suggest changing out your shoes every 300-400 miles.
  4.  Ice, ice ice. If your training for a marathon icing after those long runs will help heal the muscles that you have just broken down. 

If you’re already injured make sure you’re completely healed before hitting the pavement again. A month long injury can easily turn into a year if you’re not patient with your body. So get out there, put in the miles, and stay injury free!

*Note: Most doctors won’t do a bone scan as they are expensive.


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One Response to Recognizing and Avoiding Stress Fractures

  1. Christopher Rupert October 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Very nicely explained on stress fracture injury. Thanks Stacie.
    To conclude, if you have this injury its better to take proper rest and avoid running till you are completely fine. Also, proper treatment is necessary to avoid worsening of the condition. At Runnersworld I found great information for runners who are dealing with stress fracture.

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