Stress Fracture Management
Exercise can lead to mircro-trauma to the joints and spine
The residents of St George UT are active. They bike, run, walk, hike, play pickle-ball, and many other stressful things. Stressful? Did we just say that exercise was stressful? Yes, exercise is stressful on the body, but not always in a bad way. Stress, in this context, simply means pressure or force applied to the body. The body responds to stress in good and bad ways. When the body is injured during an activity, it’s time to call on of St George’s excellent chiropractors.
Wolf’s Law of Bone
When bone is subjected to low grade stresses over time, new bone growth is stimulated to help secure the bone. Think of a weak seedlings that are protected from wind. They grow on the ground and never seem to develop strong stems. The process of strengthening young seedlings includes placing them outside and ‘hardening’ them. The stress of being outside, and be jostled by the wind, stimulated stronger cell wall growth and promotes a stronger stem. If the plants are not allowed to harden, they fail to thrive.
The human body responds to stress like these plants. As we exercise and move, our bones harden and become stronger. This process is known as Wolf’s Law.
Stress Fracture result from focused stress
Just as the body responds favorably to stresses described above, there are times when a bone can become weakened do to too much pressure. If a person begins a new exercise program or introduces new elements into an existing program without properly working up to the goal, they can cause focal pressure on certain bones resulting in Stress Fractures.
Here is a classic example: a lady who used to run 5 miles everyday prior to a pregnancy, took 5 months off from running at the end of her pregnancy. Now that the baby is a few months old, she wants to start running again. She started running 2 miles a day for one week, then the following week was doing 3 miles. On the third week, she was back up to 5 miles each day. She now has pain in the middle and outside of a foot.
In this case, she was still fit enough to run. Her heart was strong; her muscles were still fit. But the time off allowed her bones to weaken and the quick return to full activity prompted a stress fracture. A better idea for her would be to slow down the return to 5 miles, having her run 1 mile for the first week, then 2 miles the following week, 3 miles for 3 weeks, then 4, and finally 5 miles per day. The slow return allows the body time to reinvest into stronger bones.
Common stress fracture injury sites
Stress fractures typically form in the legs and feet. Here is a list of common injury sites and the typical activity causing the stress fracture.
- calcaneus — jumping, and running with strong heel plant.
- tibia/fibula — running, and soccer
- pelvis — gymnastics
- ribs — heavy lifting, coughing
- scapula, coracoid process — trap shooting
- humerus, ulna — throwing baseball, pitching
- hamate in the wrist– golf, baseball
Chiropractic treatment for stress fracture
Patients are surprised to hear that chiropractors treat stress fracture injuries. Chiropractors who are specially trained can be a great help in getting the stress fracture to heal properly. Of course chiropractors are not adjusting the bone with the fracture. We focus on the processes that lead up to the injury and speed recovery of the injury.
In my chiropractic office in St George, we treat a number stress fractures. Our focus includes the following:
- bracing the stress fracture
- balance the weight-bearing joints for a more effective load distribution
- improve joint mechanics to reduce focused stresses on the neighboring joints
- life-style education and training
- physiotherapy to the fracture to promote faster recovery and healing
Not all chiropractors treat stress fractures. So you need to make sure you do a little home-work and select the right one.
Dr. Andrew White | St George Chiropractor
Featured image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and amenic181