What is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture is an incomplete fracture of bone caused by repetitive stress.  It is found within a weight bearing bone, such as the bones within the foot. A stress fracture has also been termed a “hairline fracture”. Symptoms of a stress fracture include tenderness in the area and pain with weight bearing.

Stress fractures commonly occur in athletes that play sports requiring excessive running.  They also occur in sedentary people who begin to exercise.  This happens because their body is not used to exercise; therefore, it is overwhelmed by the repetitive weight bearing forces.  Stress fractures can occur from muscle fatigue.  Our muscles help to provide stability, support, and shock absorption for our bones.  If these muscles become fatigued, our muscles ability to perform the role of shock absorption decreases.  This causes increased risk for a possible fracture. 

After a stress fracture, rehabilitation consists of decreasing weight bearing on the fractured bone to allow it to heal.  After the bone heals, physical therapy is often recommended to strengthen the muscles surrounding the injured bone to return the patient back to all daily activities and to prevent re-injury.

Physical Therapist vs. Chiropractor

Many patients are curious about the difference between these two health practitioners.

Chiropractors specialize in manipulating bone structure (such as the spine) to improve the function of the joints and or nervous system.  They are very well known for manipulating the spine to help decrease low back pain.  A lot of patients frequent a chiropractor’s office several times a year for many years to manage their ailments.  A chiropractor has an aggressive approach to treatment.

Physical Therapists specialize in treating injury or dysfunction with exercises, manual techniques, neuromuscular re-education, and postural re-education to improve function throughout life.  A patient will attend a physical therapist 2-3 times a week for on average 6 weeks to improve function/decrease pain and gain education on how to further these gains with independent exercise.  Physical Therapy is a conservative treatment option and one which should be used in the first line of defense against injury.

In my professional opinion, it is in the patient’s best interest to understand the difference between these two disciplines before choosing the treatment option that is appropriate.  With acute injury, one should first go to a physical therapist.  If the patient has tried physical therapy and finds they have not met their goals, then they should look into seeking a chiropractors services.  A chiropractor offers more of an aggressive approach to treatment by using manipulations so a lot of times this is inappropriate for an acute injury, such as a car accident, ankle sprain, sport injury, etc.

If you are unsure what type of discipline best suits you, feel free to contact Harbor Physical Therapy with questions.

Clinical Question – Strain vs. Sprain

What is the difference between a strain and a sprain?

Strain- A strain occurs to a muscle or tendon from an acute injury.  An example of this is when someone is in a car accident.  The person’s muscle/tendon is over contracted or over stretched depending on the position of the person during the accident.  Common symptoms are pain, weakness, decrease range of motion, and muscle fatigue. 

Sprain- A sprain occurs to a ligament in response to an overstretch or tear. An example of a sprain is when a patient steps off a curb and lands on the outside of their foot, this results in an ankle sprain.  Common symptoms are pain, swelling, brusing, and decreased range of motion.