How Long Do Stress Fractures Running Take to Heal?
You can group stress fractures running into “high risk” and “low risk” categories. Your high risk stress fractures running are fractures that occur in areas known to heal poorly and tend to require significantly more time off training. Relatively higher risk stress fractures include:
- The navicular (small bone positioned in your mid foot).
- The femur (the long thigh bone).
Stress fractures occurring in sites above the knee ring alarm bells, as fractures to bones like the femur (the strongest bone in the body) may well hint at underlying medical issues such as osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Low risk stress fractures running are stress fractures that generally heal well when given the appropriate rest and immobilisation, with a gradual return to training. Relatively lower risk stress fractures include:
- Tibial (your inside shin bone)
- Fibula (your outside shin bone)
- Metatarsal stress fractures (the thin long bones of the forefoot)
Fortunately, low risk stress fractures are more common than high risk stress fractures, which are relatively rare.
Avoiding Stress Fractures Running
Because there generally isn’t any treatment for speeding up the healing of stress fractures aside from rest, most research efforts are directed at the prevention of stress fractures. The strategies for prevention of stress fractures focus mostly on reducing stress on your bones along with maintaining or building their strength.
Obviously within these strategies, training approach takes a lions share in the role of applied stress to the bones. Any rehabilitation or prevention program that doesn’t address training load is destined to fail. Gradual ramping up of training and the inclusion of “down weeks” into a training regime is crucial to allow for your bones to become stronger. There is a loose rule that 70% of running injuries are training errors and I feel this can apply to running stress fractures. Get you training loads and rest periods sorted and you are more than half way there.
Low Intensity Pulsed Ultrasound For Bone Healing
The use of low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) to aid fracture healing is something that may assisting in accelerating healing with fresh fractures, including running stress fractures. LIPUS is sometimes used for assisting the management of fractures with delayed healing, non union or fractures occurring in elite sporting situations where the need for a rapid return to play is crucial. As mentioned earlier there generally isn’t any treatment for speeding up the healing of stress fractures aside from rest but in saying that LIPUS is some times used and it would be amiss not to mention it here. Low intensity pulsed ultrasound and bone healing is a relatively new technology and there are mixed research results. A recent systematic review of randomized controlled trials on LIPUS published in the BMJ 2017 concluded: “…LIPUS does not improve outcomes important to patients and probably has no effect on radiographic bone healing…”
The use of such a device however under the guidance of a specialist may be suggested or indicated if return to training time frames are tight or the running stress fracture is considered high risk or showing signs of delayed healing.
Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic provides this information as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on Stress Fractures Running And Their Management should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist, sports medicine specialist, orthopedic surgeon or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.