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Don’t Ignore Your Pain Symptoms – It Could Be a Stress Fracture

By Lee Diehl, MD, AOSSM, 04/25/19, 12:00PM CDT

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Currently, MRI is the most commonly used imaging to look for or confirm the presence of stress fractures.

Pain is the body’s way of trying to tell us something. It’s a protective sign. Bone and the coverings on the outside of bone have lots of nerve endings capable of signaling problems. Like other tissues in our bodies, bone is constantly undergoing a re-model. It responds to physical stress by reinforcing its’ underlying structure allowing it to withstand the stress. This describes a well-recognized principle called ‘Wolff’s Law of Bone’. 

This bony ‘re-enforcement’ like most construction projects, doesn’t happen overnight. The key is that the bone has to be given time to respond and reinforce its structure. If the stress is applied faster than the bone can adapt to, the structure will fail (break) or fracture. Failure can happen suddenly, like falling off your bike and breaking your wrist, or it can be a slower process – occurring over days or weeks leading to a ‘stress reaction’ or stress fracture of bone.