If you're active on the slopes, on the greens, or on the court, you are vulnerable to a stress fracture. Stress fractures are not uncommon; they are a simple byproduct of an active lifestyle in which living bone tissue is put to the test. Because bone is alive, it responds to stressors. The way it does so is by thickening and hardening. When the stress becomes too much for a particular bone, such as the elbow or shoulder, it may fracture.
Stress fractures do not only affect the shoulders or elbows. These are just the areas in which we specialize. Other areas where stress fractures are common include:
- Metatarsals, or bones in the feet
How it All Starts
The beginnings of a stress fracture are microscopic, tiny splits in the scaffolding of the bone. If the fractured bone is not rested, which is unlikely due to the discrete nature of the fracture, damage tends to progress. At this point in the process, there are very few signs and symptoms. The patient may not even have any pain. If there is discomfort, it's usually very mild. The athlete may notice that the velocity of his or her throws drops, but little more. This is referred to as a "stress reaction." If this reaction can be noticed, and care is provided at this point in the process, healing is faster to occur.
If the microscopic fracture progresses into a larger injury, pain will become more pronounced during physical movement in which stress is placed on the fragile bone. Obvious pain is a major indicator that the fracture has actually happened. Stress fractures in the hip are considered urgent. The same injury on another bone, such as the elbow or shoulder, may not be quite as serious, but they should be assessed sooner rather than later.
The goal in evaluated stress fractures is to expedite the healing process. In many cases, patients can recover from this type of injury without surgery. What is needed is time and patients. The return to the usual level of activity does not occur overnight. Rushing into physical exertion could exacerbate the problem and inhibit complete recovery.
Advanced Orthopedics & Hand Surgery Institute has offices in Wayne and Clifton. Contact us to schedule your consultation with one of our friendly, experienced physicians.