Don’t Stress If It’s Already Broken

I currently feel a little bit like a one-legged Easter rabbit – and that’s not because someone has taken a bite of my other leg but because one of the toes in my right foot crumbled like old chocolate. To be precise it turned into a hollow Easter bunny before I jumped with joy and cracked it.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think they’re well qualified to give medical advice and are privy to my training programme and hence able to make comments such as “too much running!”, “didn’t rest enough?” or “best stop running”. The last one is actually spot-on, if not very helpful, given that I cannot even walk at this stage and would have to be stark raving mad to attempt running – not to mention high as a kite and doped out of my head to even just be able to tolerate the pain.

Fact: Stress fractures can be brought on by a number of factors.

Yes, too much training, increasing training intensity, speed or volume too quickly can all cause them. Women are also at a higher risk and those of us with abnormal periods – more common in athletes than the general female population – even more so. Lack of calcium could be to blame – my doc was appalled I have barely any dairy in my diet for instance but I do get copious amounts of calcium through other sources.If your feet aren’t stock standard “normal”, say they’re flat, high arched, excessively pronating, hypermobile etc, you’re also more likely to get a lovely stress fracture. And, lucky are those who have had an operation or serious injury to lower limbs before (yep, that’s me, too) or those with leg length difference. Basically, reading up on stress fractures, I’m surprised I didn’t have one before! Really we should all be getting them all the time.

So what becomes important is looking at what changed in your training regime recently. I did increase my volume but not excessively or suddenly. What I did change were the shoes I wore. Bad luck of the draw! Nike gave me a special deal when I entered an event and I thought “why not?”? Argh, small mistake, big problem now. I meant to get them checked out by an independent podiatrist to make sure they were the best ones for me to do ultra long distances in, but before I could, i.e. within three runs in the new shoes, my foot was cactus. Lucky me.

The good news is, other than having people pity me, make sarky comments and tell me to stay off my feet, I have had some really great people to work with and found some absolute morsels of advice through various avenues. So here it goes, my proposed stress fracture recovery plan: I AM Calcium!

1) Stabilise and unload the injured bone (for me that’s the 2nd metatarsal) as much as possible. That can be rigid bike shoes, hard plastic sandals, a boot from the pharmacy or whatever else works for you.

2) Ice, ice, ice. Gets the swelling down and you to work on and with the foot.

3) Arnica, fisiocrem, voltarengel and any cream or gel that helps bring inflammation (and pain) down is your best friend.

4) Massage the affected foot and release the muscles and tendons and do not neglect the rest of the body. Get on a roller, book in a massage (remedial, myofascial or whatever works for you). Get acupuncture on it if that has worked in the past.

5) Meditate and visualise healing. It’s proven to work. If it’s not for you, try a guided version.

6) Do not let your body’s fitness levels fall and make sure you stay strong and supple. It will help you avoid issues in other parts of your body as you compensate. Cycling is okay if you can do it without pain. Running in the pool with a flotation device is okay. Reformer Pilates, mat Pilates, weight and strength training… Take your pick. Don’t be a chicken but stay safe and avoid pain. Keep carefully stepping it up. If it hurts – don’t do it. No cheating.

7) Assist your bones and healing processes with Calcium, joint and muscle formulas, lyprinol, bioenzymes etc. Sure, you can overdose on calcium too – unpleasant but better than a broken bone. Read up how much you need.

8) Look after yourself and know who to go to for advice. YOU know your body best. Just leave any feelings out of it and really listen. You’ll know what to do.

9) If it all gets too much, don’t worry. It sucks to have broken bones but it’ll heal. Do something productive with the time and if you need a cry or chocolate, well go on, what’s stopping you?

I loved this site for advice on training with a stress fracture: http://forum.slowtwitch.com/cgi-bin/gforum.cgi?post=2082291

And if you’d like some support from people who’ve been in the same predicament, check this out: http://www.runnersworld.com/community/forums/injury-prevention/injuries/metatarsal-stress-fracture-3

Now good luck with everyone’s training and healing! And if you happen to meet someone with a stress fracture – and you care-, perhaps hold back the well-meant advice and give them a hug or buy them a big glass of milk. :-P

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