Metatarsal Stress Fracture : Running Injuries

Running puts a lot of strain on the feet and stress fractures can occur as a gradual result of wear and tear and repetitive stress.

The Metatarsal Bones

There are 5 metatarsal bones in the foot that are joined to the phalanges, also known as the toe bones, at the front of the foot and the tarsal bones at the ankle. The metatarsals play a role in both propelling the foot forward and supporting body weight and have the ability to be rigid or flexible as required.

What Causes a Metatarsal Stress Fracture?

Stress fractures can be caused by a sudden trauma, such as a heavy object falling on your foot, but in running they are much more likely to be caused by repetitive stress. The metatarsals are particularly vulnerable to stress fractures, especially if they are being constantly overexerted. Over time, the bones in the foot can become weakened, resulting in a stress fracture. The most susceptible to injury are the second and third metatarsals. Over-pronation makes a stress fracture more likely, as an unbalanced stance puts more strain on the feet. Increasing the amount of hill running you do or running a lot faster than you normally do on a regular basis, are other contributing factors. Suffering from a condition that leads to decreased bone density (such as osteoporosis) also makes the metatarsals more prone to becoming fractured.

What are the Symptoms of a Metatarsal Stress Fracture?

Runners may not immediately realise they have a stress fracture. Pain is typically experienced at the top of the foot where the bone is injured and can vary in intensity. There will likely be some swelling and you might have some difficulty bearing weight on the injured foot.

How Can Runners Avoid This Type of Injury?

Having a good diet that provides you with all the vitamins and minerals you need to help keep bones strong and healthy (especially calcium) will help to protect the metatarsals from injury. Not over-training and getting a sufficient amount of rest in between training sessions so your bones have time to recuperate will also help to prevent stress fractures.  If you suffer from over-pronation, it is a good idea to wear insoles that support the arches of your feet, which will help to alleviate the problem.

Treating a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

A stress fracture not always easy to diagnose because sometimes it can take a couple of weeks for it to show up on an X ray. It is important to rest if you think you have a stress fracture because continuing to train may exacerbate the injury. You must ensure the pain has completely subsided before you start training again. You may be able to start training gently again after 3-4 weeks and you can normally resume your normal training regime after 6 weeks.

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