I saw a sports medicine specialist today and found out I have a stress fracture.
Dr. Halstead did a full exam of every part of my lower leg and only that spot bothered me. Then we looked at x-rays showing what was going on inside. He explained that while it’s very rare to see a stress fracture on an x-ray (I guess cause they’re normally tiny?), you can see the area around the fracture trying to heal itself, which is what leads to the diagnosis. He pointed out a little bump in the tissue around the spot that hurts me–that’s the healing taking place. He also said there were some spots on the fronts of my shins that looked like they had recently healed. I hadn’t mentioned the front shin pain I felt in August and September before he saw the x-rays so it’s pretty cool he could see on his own that I’d had problems in that area. (That pain went away.)
The area that the stress fracture is in has bothered me since mid October and not let up even though I’ve only run one time in the three weeks after my race. Dr. Halstead said that’s the difference between shin splints and a stress fracture–shin splints usually bother you at the beginning of a run and then let up and go away; a stress fracture is a constant pain you can’t get rid of. I’d been icing that area in the weeks before my October 27th race and still couldn’t get rid of the pain when I wasn’t icing. So now I know that’s what a stress fracture feels like.
The treatment for a stress fracture is no running or other high impact activity for six weeks from the last day of high impact activity. So while my half marathon was October 27th, I did run a few miles last Wednesday (with a dull pain the whole time). That means 11/13/13 is when my clock starts, putting me on track for a brand new leg Christmas morning! Dr. Halstead said I’d probably begun healing in the weeks after my race and the one run (and one Zumba class) may not have ruined the repair, so he’s going to see me again in four weeks and assess where I’m at. I need to be able to walk for a week without pain before running is an option.
Until then, high impact activity is out. That means no:
- Walking (except the little walking to get me where I need to go; no walking for exercise)
- Zumba (too much hopping)
- PiYo (I forgot to specifically ask about that but I don’t want to risk it since there’s a lot of moves that isolate each leg, putting all the weight on one)
- Anything else that requires my leg to be pounded into the ground
Instead, I can:
- Ride a bike
- Use the elliptical
- Use weights (as long as my leg isn’t lifting weight then pounding down)
- Swim (which I don’t ever do but maybe now’s my chance)
- Anything else that isn’t high impact on my leg; I’m thinking push ups and sit ups would be other good options
According to the doctor I won’t lose my endurance so long as I keep doing cardio. I personally think it’s bound to suffer somewhat but I also think something is better than nothing so I will continue to do something and start running again when my body is ready.
In addition to being pals with Orlando Pace (this group of doctors are the team doctors for the Rams and Blues), Dr. Halstead is a runner himself which is why I chose him. He’s also had stress fractures; 20 years apart. He said running is high impact and runners who run long distances for long periods of time are likely to suffer a stress fracture at some point due to the nature of the sport, though that doesn’t mean they will keep getting stress fractures. A lot of times the cause is a combination of things like:
- Running in old shoes (I think this is one of my factors–before I got shin splints the first time I’d been running in shoes I should have replaced a month earlier. The groundwork was probably laid for injury.)
- Running too much
- Running without enough recovery time between runs (Also me–I had to run three days in a row for most of my training and in the past I rarely exceeded two days in a row.)
- Running form
- Running faster (Yes, but it didn’t seem like an unreasonable increase from my previous pace)
He suggested when I come in four weeks from now that I bring my current shoes (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13–a shoe he said is great and not likely to cause problems) and my previous ones (Asics GEL-1170) so he can look at the wear on them, I guess to give him an indication of my running form. Unfortunately I threw out my last pair (and yet I found two other, older pairs of running shoes–go figure) so I’ll just have him look at my current shoes.
In the meantime, he said if the pain is a problem when I walk in day-to-day situations he could give me a boot to wear. I told him the pain when walking is more annoying than anything; it’s not something that causes me to limp or even bothers me that much. He said that’s fine–he didn’t wear a boot either time he had a stress fracture.
If there’s a silver lining, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I don’t have any races scheduled for the rest of the year. My next half marathon is April 6th, 2014. Even with a full six weeks off I’ll be on track to do my normal 12 weeks of training starting in January. In the meantime I can do low impact cardio and get stronger with weights.
Now that I’ve caught the injury before my leg broke in two, I have to admit I feel like a badass for PRing my half while having a stress fracture. And while I’m bummed about not running for six weeks, I was already not running. At least now I have a diagnosis and a clear plan of action. That makes me happy.