Stress Fractures

What Causes Stress Fractures?

Stress fractures can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose stress fractures, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "stress fractures" as a symptom.  Here are five possibilities:
  • Poor Bone Health
  • Poor Musculoskeletal Health
  • Overtraining
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hormone Imbalance

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
limited lifetime sun exposure
moderate alcohol consumption
very low fat/oil intake
breast soreness during cycle
early puberty onset
herniated disc(s)
short-term low-carb dieting
unexplained missed periods
being anxious/nervous
recent oily hair
history of many broken bones
high caffeinated soda consumption
... and more than 20 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of stress fractures:
Cause Probability Status
Overtraining 98% Confirm
Poor Bone Health 15% Unlikely
Hormone Imbalance 4% Ruled out
Poor Musculoskeletal Health 4% Ruled out
Osteoporosis 4% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

In the Skeletal Symptoms section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about stress fractures:
Do you have a history of stress fractures? Symptoms include pain, tenderness and/or swelling at the site of injury, and pain that is worse during exercise but decreases or disappears with rest.
Possible responses:
→ No / don't know
→ Probably, but it was never confirmed
→ Yes, one
→ Yes, several
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either likely history of stress fractures or history of stress fractures, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Hormone Imbalance

Female athletes with abnormal or absent periods might have weakened bones.  One study showed that 39% of female athletes with irregular menstruation develop stress fractures.

Poor Musculoskeletal Health

Stress fractures are small cracks or severe bruises within a bone and by definition indicate poor musculoskeletal health.

The Effects Of Overtraining

The most common mistake that athletes make is increasing their training by too much, too quickly.  Adding jumping or speed training and/or increasing your overall mileage too quickly can lead to stress fractures.  Changes in training should be done gradually.

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