Metatarsal Stress Fractures: A Guide For Runners
Are you suffering from pain in the top of your foot that gets worse after you run? There's a good chance you have a metatarsal stress fracture. The metatarsal bones run along the top of your foot (just behind your toes), and they absorb a lot of shock when you run. The repetitive pounding of running can cause small cracks, know as stress fractures, to form in these bones. Here's a closer look at how you should handle this injury.
Diagnosing Stress Fractures
In order to make sure you truly do have a stress fracture and are not just suffering from some tendon soreness or bruised tissue, you need to visit a podiatrist. He or she will take x-rays of your foot to check for stress fractures and determine, more precisely, their location.
Treating Stress Fractures
If you are diagnosed with a stress fracture, your podiatrist will work with you to devise a treatment plan. The most important element of this plan is rest. You are going to need to take time off from running -- otherwise, the repetitive pounding will prevent your fracture from healing. Many runners use low-impact exercise, like pool running or cycling, to stay in good cardiovascular shape while they're unable to run. Typically, it takes a stress fracture 6 to 8 weeks to heal. And after that, you'll need to ease yourself back into running over a period of several weeks to avoid re-injury. So sadly, if you have a big race or a competitive season ahead of you, the development of your stress fracture probably means you'll be sitting it out.
In addition to rest, your podiatrist will likely recommend icing your foot several times per day. This will help keep inflammation down, which will in turn help with the pain and speed healing. In most cases, you won't need to wear a cast for a stress fracture, though your podiatrist may give you a special "boot" or brace to wear when you're walking.
Runners who have had stress fractures in the past are more prone to developing them again. Once you've recovered from your fracture, you'll want to take these precautions to protect yourself from subsequent fractures:
- Make sure you're eating a diet rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D in order to keep your bones strong and healthy.
- Replace your running shoes every 300 - 500 miles. Old shoes don't absorb shock well, which leaves your bones to absorb more shock.
- Run on soft surfaces like grass and dirt more often than hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.
If you think you may have a stress fracture, don't delay seeking treatment. The longer you continue to run on it, the worse it will become. Visit a doctor such as Dr. Lisa M. Schoene as soon as possible.