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Last month we introduced you to the newest member of our team, Marta, who trained as a professional dancer before studying physical therapy. As we discussed in our February post, dancing injuries most commonly affect the lower body. Examples of these injuries are stress fractures, ankle sprains and tendon injuries. Although these are common dance injuries they can occur in many other sports or fitness pursuits as well. Let’s tackle one of these potential problems, stress fractures, in a bit more detail and discuss how they can be prevented and managed.
A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone which is usually caused by overuse. Stress fractures primarily occur in the weight bearing bones of the lower body and usually affect the bones of the second or third toes. Dancers are commonly affected because of repetitive impact on their feet. This type of injury is also prevalent in runners and those who participate in sports that involve a lot of running like soccer.
Stress fractures occur when bones are subjected to greater forces and impacts than they are used to. These repetitive movements cause microscopic bone damage. Frequent training sessions do not allow sufficient time for the bone to heal; eventually it weakens and tiny cracks in the bone begin to develop. The difference between a stress fracture and an acute fracture is that stress fractures happen over time and an acute bone fracture occurs after one specific trauma.
Stress fractures are most prevalent in people who have quickly increased their training volume or changed the way they are doing that sport. An example of this could be – switching from trail running to running on the sidewalk or from outdoor soccer to a harder indoor surface. A change in footwear could also make someone more susceptible to a stress fracture. Women are more likely than men to experience stress fractures and female dancers are even more at risk because many have low bone density and are at risk for amenorrhea (cessation of menstrual periods).
Symptoms of a stress fracture are:
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, the first step in your recovery is to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Stress fractures can be hard to diagnose because they often don’t show up on a regular x-ray. Additional imaging such as a bone scan, CT scan or MRI may be required. In most instances a period of rest will be required initially to allow the bone to begin to heal.
At Leduc Physio, our physiotherapists might also suggest the use of crutches or a brace while your injury is in the acute stage. We can help manage any symptoms of pain and discomfort through the use of dry needling (including acupuncture) and other modalities. We might also recommend you undergo a body biomechanical exam and an individualized exercise program to address any muscle imbalances that may have contributed to your stress fracture. Your therapist will guide you in returning to whatever sport or activity caused your injury and advise if orthotics, taping or special footwear would be beneficial.
Think you may have a stress fracture? Call Leduc Physio at (780) 980-5443 to schedule your assessment.