Post Lockdown Stress Fractures 

Lockdown has put everyone’s schedule out of whack, including their weekly fitness regime. 

Whether you have taken a 3 month hiatus from the gym, or you have been bored in the house going for a 5km run every day, it’s important if you do feel foot or leg pain, to get it checked out. 

Why?A common injury that we see after a change in your exercise/daily living pattern is a stress fracture. 

What is it?… A stress fracture is a small chip in the bone due too much ‘stress’. Our bones are always remodelling under stress (this is normal), but too much of this stress can result in a fracture. This stress can come in all different forms: a big increase in exercise suddenly; an increase or decrease in body weight; a change in diet i.e. limited iron intake, under-eating; an external stress i.e. job loss/lockdown stress; poor footwear; osteoporosis; Lack of Vitamin D. 

A recent study looked at how the body changed over the lockdown period with a reduction in activity.

After a short 4 weeks of reduced training, they saw muscle loss (atrophy), a reduction in oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) and a decrease in haemoglobin content in the blood. 

Another study looked at the reduction in Vitamin D due to reduced sun exposure when in lockdown. Increased circulating Vitamin D levels are associated with an increase in bone strength. 

On top of this, with gyms being closed for 3 months, a lot of regular exercisers would have increased their running around their local roads/paths, rather than combining this training with bike work/strength training etc. 

Stress of lockdown + lower vitamin D levels + increase in running = a recipe for a stress fracture. 

So this is something to keep in mind when going back to the gym over the next few weeks. 

What does a stress fracture look like?… A pinpoint pain, most commonly in the lower limb that could be red/swollen/hot. 

How can we prevent a stress fracture?… Obviously there are some stressors that we can’t control. One big thing we can control is how we go about getting back into exercise, and that should be gradually. Take it easy, as we have seen in the studies mentioned above, our bodies will have changed over the past 10-12 weeks so take it easy to begin with and then build back up… Simples! 

If you do suspect a stress fracture, it is best to get it checked out to be managed in the best care.  We are experts in diagnosis and treatment of overuse injuries- including stress fractures. We stock moon boots and work closely with our orthotic lab to create customised orthotics for complex cases.

Gabby Mence, Podiatrist