A stress fracture is an incomplete break (fracture) that can be seen as the final stage of excessive stress. The break is caused by extraordinary or repeated stress on the bone and not by the hard impact that causes other breaks. There is often reference to extreme periostitis or acute problems for people with a weak bone structure. The bone itself is affected but this can only be seen via a bone scan, in the early stages.
- A painful area on the affected bone
- A great deal of pain at the start of exercise, followed by moderate pain in the middle and a great deal of pain thereafter.
- The nagging pain is localised and will increase as the exercise continues
- There may be swelling around the break site too
If you suspect a stress fracture, it is vital you contact a doctor so that a bone scan can establish the correct diagnosis.
Rest is the most important treatment. Ice can be placed on the painful spot to ease the pain and swelling. If the lower leg is pain-free after 6 weeks, exercise can be gradually increased. Cycling, swimming and aqua-aerobics are suitable sports for getting back to fitness.
See prevention of periostitis