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Ask the Doctor: Can I Run on a Stress Fracture?

Today we are launching a new weekly "Ask the Doctor" series. We are working with physicians and physical therapists from OrthoCarolina to answer any questions that you might have about injuries, injury prevention and running healthy. If you have a question you'd like to submit for the series, please leave a comment below or email me at jdecurtins@charlotteobserver.com.

Today's questions is about when you can get back on the road after a stress fracture.

Ask the Doctor: Is it okay to run on a stress fracture? 

I see a lot of runners who are anxious to get back on the road after a stress fracture. They may be able to walk fine, sometimes even with very little pain. But when it comes to running before your stress fracture is healed, I wouldn’t recommend it. A stress fracture is an overuse problem that develops when your muscles tire and your body can’t absorb the stress you expose it to. The stress can come from a number of places: biomechanical issues, poor flexibility, abrupt change in activity, but bones bear the brunt of the impact.

Remember that a stress fracture is a crack in your bone. By continuing to run on it when it’s not fully healed the bone could displace and cause the need for longer mobilization. Anything that will puts you forcefully on ball of your foot will aggravate it.  As much as you want to run, the best thing you can do is allow the bone to heal fully. In the meantime try riding a stationary bike and using an elliptical machine. Also be conscious of what you eat and make sure iron, protein and other essential bone-building nutrients like vitamin D and calcium are in your diet.

Greg Sanders PA-C, is a Physician Assistant at OrthoCarolina’s Foot and Ankle Institute.

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