What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture is when there is an actual break in the bone. This typically develops due to a series of repeated, small traumas to the bone as opposed to a large traumatic incident. It occurs more commonly in the bones of the lower limb.

Risk factors for the development of a stress fracture

Stress fractures occur when the bone’s structural capacity is overloaded repetitively causing incremental damage to the bone.

This usually occurs due to several factors including:

· Changing footwear or running surfaces

· Insufficient nutrition including reduced Vitamin D

· Prior stress injury to the bone

· Menstrual irregularity or low BMI

· Health conditions that reduce bone density (such as osteoporosis)

Common symptoms can vary but are commonly characterised by:

· Localised area of pain

· Dull aching pain, which worsens with movement and can last for >24 hrs post activity.

· Swelling and tenderness over the area may be evident depending on location.

Preventative measures

To reduce the risk of a stress fracture, a well-planned out training program which avoids sudden changes in training load is essential.

Features of this training plan should include:

· A walk-run interval plan, particularly if you are novice runner (e.g. Couch to 5 km).

· Avoid running on consecutive days

· Avoid increasing weekly mileage by more than 15%.

This also applies to seasoned runners.

· An appropriate pair of trainers that support your feet and aren’t over 12 months old.

· Strengthening exercises to increase your muscles and bone’s ability to adapt and tolerate your running load.

· Put cross training into your regime including swimming, cycling, hiking.


Early detection of stress fractures is important to ensure successful healing and allow for a quicker recovery. An MRI is a great diagnostic tool as it is the most sensitive modality, and it can differentiate soft tissue injuries from bone injuries. If you suspect you have a stress fracture, you should book an initial consultation with one of our Physiotherapists immediately.


If you have been diagnosed with a stress fracture your treatment will include an initial period of relative rest, depending on the sports doctor’s advice. For example, if the stress fracture is in your foot, you may be instructed to wear an aircast boot and use crutches to avoid putting any weight through the injured area. If you have any questions, feel free to book in with one of our physiotherapists in Kew, physiotherapists in Oakleigh, Podiatrists in Kew or Podiatrists in Oakleigh! Book online at www.msspc.com.au or call 98537836.