Lower extremity stress fractures in runners

by Jillian Carr

What Causes Stress Fractures In Runners and How Can PT Help?

Lower etremity stress fractures in runners are overuse injuries, most often seen in the lower extremity, that are becoming increasingly more common among runners. They occur with repetitive stress that impacts bones the same way over time. When muscles become fatigued and are unable to successfully absorb these shocks and forces that are constantly being translated to the lower extremities, tiny but painful cracks in the bone can occur. Pain associated with this type of injury usually feels sharp and in a specific spot over a bone. It typically gets worse with activity and subsides with rest.

Some common causes of stress fractures include:

  • Increasing activity intensity too quickly
  • Changes in running surface
  • Improper footwear
  • Not enough recovery time
  • Improper nutrition intake: low calorie and vitamin D intake (especially in females)

How can a physical therapist help?

A physical therapist can help by teaching you exercises that will improve your range of motion as well as correct muscle imbalances that may be contributing to the problem. Your physical therapist can also give you special exercises to help your muscles learn to more efficiently respond to changes in running surfaces. They can create a unique program specific to your needs and goals and can also provide you with a great deal of education regarding proper footwear and other important preventative measures. (See our Related Posts links below for more valuable information from Capital Area PT)

Lower Etremity Stress Fracture Recovery

During your recovery, it is important to ask yourself the following questions to determine what training and lifestyle habits may need to be adjusted:

  • Did my mileage jump up too quickly?
  • Did I run more frequent fast workouts than I was used to?
  • Or did I run my workouts at too fast a pace?
  • Is my cadence (steps per minute) over 170?
  • Am I getting a regular period?
  • Am I eating enough and getting enough high-quality nutrients (especially calcium and Vitamin D)?
  • Have I been doing regular strength workouts?

For more information on lower extremity stress fractures in runners, and how physical therapy can help, contact us for an appointment at any of our locations in Malta, Queensbury, or Clifton Park at 518-289-5242.


1.Patel Deepaks, Roth M, Kapil N. Stress Fractures: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. American Family Physician. 2011;83(1):39-46.

2. Davis J. The Ultimate Runner’s Guide to Stress Fractures: Causes, Risk Factors and How to Return to Training. Runnersconnect.net. http://www.citationmachine.net/american-medical-association-alphabetical/cite-a-website/manual. Accessed May 2017.

3.Fitzgerald J. The Runner’s Guide to Stress Fractures: How to Diagnose, Prevent and Recover from a Fracture. StrengthRunning.com. http://strengthrunning.com/2015/07/what-is-a-stress-fracture/. Published July 2015. Accessed May 2017.

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