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When to Run After a Stress Fracture (Read 3837 times)

maxhoagland


    I've always been a trail runner, until I moved to NYC. After a while running on asphalt and concrete, I started having shin pain. I tried to run through it, thinking the pain was just shin splints, but then eventually it hurt so much that I had to limp back from one of my runs. Now I realize that was a mistake... So I took two weeks off, until there was no pain, and then tried running again. The pain came back, so I took two more weeks off and tried running again. My shin doesn't hurt when I walk, just when I press on the stress fracture. My question is; should I wait to continue running until there is absolutely no pain in my shin? Or can I start running just a little and gradually increase my mileage? How do I know when I can run again?


    Along for the Ride

      Did you have the stress fracture diagnosed with x-ray or MRI? If so, your doctor should give you guidance on when to run again. If not, you could still have shinsplints from transitioning from the trails to asphalt. Does the shin hurt when you run? You should probably have your shoes/gait assessed; arch support issues could mess with your shins as well. There are good stretches on the internet. Also make sure to ice after runs - fill a dixie paper cup with water and freeze it. Then you can peel off the edges and "ice massage" the shin(s).

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      2010 Goofy Trainee

        The standard advice is to stop running entirely for 6-8 weeks to let a stress fracture heal. What you describe sounds exactly like the stress fracture I had earlier this year. After a few days of just walking I'd feel no pain and think that I could return to running. But it only took a few minutes of running for the pain to return. Try the ice massage first - if it feels better from that, it could only be shin splints. If the ice makes no difference, then it's probably a stress fracture and you should get a bone scan to confirm that.
        Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream...
          The standard advice is to stop running entirely for 6-8 weeks to let a stress fracture heal. What you describe sounds exactly like the stress fracture I had earlier this year. After a few days of just walking I'd feel no pain and think that I could return to running. But it only took a few minutes of running for the pain to return. Try the ice massage first - if it feels better from that, it could only be shin splints. If the ice makes no difference, then it's probably a stress fracture and you should get a bone scan to confirm that.
          My experience as well. It takes several weeks to heal. During that time you should find some low impact activities. Elliptical machine is a good choice, as is water running and swimming, cycling. It's not like you can't do anything. You just have to avoid the impact. And as soon as you feel pain, STOP whatever you're doing.


          Imminent Catastrophe

            Without a good diagnosis it's hard to tell, and you would need a bonescan to get a diagnosis. If it is a stress fracture then you cannot just take a couple of weeks off, it's more like 6-8 weeks, then a very cautious rehab of 6-8 more weeks. If you just wait a couple weeks then resume running (like you have already done) it will either get worse or linger. I continued running with symptoms similar to yours and it just got worse. If the fracture gets bad enough you may need a cast and crutches. Even pins in the bone, according to my Ortho. What I'm trying to say is, don't mess with a SF. Of course it could be tendinitis or compartment syndrome, which wouldn't require such a long recovery time. I hope that it isn't a SF, for your sake.

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            maxhoagland


              Thanks
                You just need to do some cycling or swimming and you'll recover nicely.
                  The difference between shin splints ( a generic term which covers a multitude of problems between knee and ankle ) and a stress fracture is large and important. If it is shin splints then 3 - 4 weeks of low impact ( elliptical, swimming, biking) and a gentle return to running on soft surfaces, combined with icing and stretching, should see you back on track. However, if it is a stress fracture then you will have a longer and much more gentle recovery. If it is a stress fracture, do not run on it or you do risk being put in a cast. I'm no Doc, but I have suffered similar symptoms. In my case I think it was shin splints, and a month of low impact stuff was enough. I think you should get this properly diagnosed via a bone scan/MRI thingy in order to avoid doing yourself more lasting damage. Feel very sorry for you - wishing you a very speedy recovery.