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  • Writer's pictureSamantha McPherson

The Scoop on Stress Fractures and Why You Should Get Shin and Foot Pain Checked Pronto

Lockdown + jumping around at home in your crocs got you suffering some shin and foot pain? See a physiotherapist and get it checked for a stress fracture.

Joining the daily jig of the charming and cheeky Joe Wicks has been a saviour for – literally – millions of people! His generosity in keeping us active, exhausting our children, and bringing a smile to our faces is something I will forever be grateful for. Team this however, with a new running plan, poor footwear and crappy-coronavirus-sleep and there is a risk of causing stress fractures in the lower leg and feet. I want to keep you working out with the curly haired hero so here’s a little information about stress fractures.

As a physiotherapist, and working in a team of orthopaedic consultants, we have noticed a rise in lower limb stress fractures in the latter part and coming out of lockdown. Key point here: this doesn’t mean working out at home is bad, it just needs a little consideration of surfaces and footwear. We have seen patients doing daily HIIT workouts barefoot on laminate floors…whilst I also deploy the rule of ‘no shoes indoors’ (I’m not an animal! Saying that, they don’t wear shoes…hmmm) anyway, if you are going to exercise indoors, give your trainers a spritz with some Dettol, pop down a mat and off you go!

What is a stress fracture?

Stress fractures occur when a bone is subject to more load that it can tolerate and isn’t able to heal fully in between loading. The point in the bone that is receiving the most ‘stress’ starts to crack and without care and rest can start to increase. It becomes inflamed, angry and sore.

Often, stress fractures are sore points, around the size of a fingerprint, in the lower shin or foot (metatarsal bones), sometimes a little warm and inflamed and very tender to press. They often hurt at rest as well as when you are active. They get more sore with more weight bearing and load and don't settle on immediate rest.

Causes of stress fractures

Sudden increase in activity (IG at home workouts in you jimjams anyone?)

Poor nutrition

Changes in bone quality, eg. Osteoporosis

Reduced sleep (hello lockdown anxiety!)

Poor footwear (Birkenstocks are gorgeous but not the best for jumping jacks)

Older age

Where are stress fractures most likely to occur?

If you are experiencing some lower leg pain around the shins, ankles, feet then there are myriad of things that could be occurring including tendon issues. Get yourself a virtual physiotherapy appointment and get some advice.

What if I can’t see a physiotherapist?

You totally can! I have diagnosed and treated successfully multiple types of lower limb pain over zoom. You don’t necessarily need to be seen in person to get a diagnosis and management plan. If your physio feels you need an X-Ray or further input, then this can still be arranged. Don’t delay.

Initial management advice is;

Rest, ice, elevate, avoid any aggravating activities an appointment with a healthcare professional.

What happens if I leave my pain?

Firstly, you’ll be really uncomfortable and that’s just not nice, no one needs that! We have enough to worry about right now!

Secondly, if there is a stress fracture in play, without appropriate management it could get worse and turn into a larger fracture which leads to a significant time off of your feet and less mobile. With a delay in healing. At this time where our overall wellbeing is more important than ever, we want to keep you feeling well and being active. We have seen a lot of ‘late presenting’ stress fractures which = non-weight-bearing-for-weeks-boredom. Get any niggles seen to pronto.

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