A stress fracture is a common, but serious repetitive use injury. Unlike a normal fracture, which is usually caused by an acute event such as falling off a ladder, this type of fracture is the result of a less severe force acting on the bone over and over again.
This type of injury is most commonly seen in athletes, soldiers, backpackers, and dancers where they are repeatedly impacting the hard ground or floor with the full force of their body weight again and again. There are ways to decrease the impact on the bones, but when a stress fracture appears it can be treated in various ways. Things like physical therapy and massage with essential oils, can aide in healing of stress fractures.
Without early treatment a stress fracture may worsen into a deeper, more serious fracture, so it is important to diagnose the stress fracture as early as possible and get quick treatment. Diagnosing a stress fracture can be somewhat tricky. They do not typically show up on x-rays. The only diagnostic tests that will diagnose a stress fracture are a CT scan, and MRI, or a 3-phase bone scan. Stress fractures, like their traumatic cousins, can take as few as 4 and as many as 16 weeks to heal.
During the early stages, you should avoid bearing any weight on the injured limb. Doctors will usually give you some type of cast, even one that can be removed such as an air cast, and crutches so that you can keep still get around. During this time you should avoid physical activity that could make the fracture worse. If your cast is removable, and your doctor says it’s ok, you can swim without placing too much strain on the injury.
During the first week you’ll want to use ice packs as much as possible. This will help keep the swelling to a minimum and help relieve pain. You’ll likely visit your orthopedic specialist several times during the healing process, and during those visits they can advise you of the level of activity that you can safely perform with the injury. This will vary based on your individual situation, but it’s important not to rush yourself back into an activity. You could do more harm than good.
At all stages in the healing process, you can perform massage on the area with essential oils like Myrrh, Olibanum, Cistus as long as the area does not have any open wounds. If you are in a traditional plaster or fiberglass cast, you can apply the oils above and below the cast.
You can prevent stress fractures in the future a number of ways. First, be sure that the shoes you are wearing are appropriate for the activity you are performing as well as for your feet. There are many shoe manufacturers who produce specialized athletic shoes that are not only specific to certain activities like running or hiking but also to different types of feet. If these aren’t in your budget, you can also find specialized orthotic inserts for your shoes at most drug stores. In addition, be sure that you are using proper form during your activities. While it may take more effort, and feel a little strange, in the long run it will lessen the strain on your bones and help prevent stress fracture.