Today on the Doc On The Run podcast we’re talking about the 3 crucial mistakes that runners make when they get metatarsal stress fractures.
Metatarsal stress fractures are probably one of the most common injuries I see. We even created a whole course on how to run and heal metatarsal stress fractures because they’re so common and not everybody needs to call me for a consultation or a webcam visit, a virtual doctor visit or a phone call or whatever when they get a stress fracture. You just really have to use some common sense, do everything that you can to heal it as quickly as possible and then get back to running. But there really are three mistakes I see runners make over and over and over, even when I see runners … when I do a house call and I see them in person where they’re making the same mistakes.
The first thing is that runners keep running on it. Most runners who get a stress fracture do not stop running as soon as a stress fracture develops. This is not complicated. If you’re running and you start to injure the bone and then you keep running, even if it’s just a few more runs, you’re going to dramatically accelerate and increase the amount of damage in that bone. Talking to you too late right now if you have one of these injuries but if you’re running and you feel this aching pain, aching sensation in your foot, that you think might be a stress fracture but you feel like you have to finish your 18-mile run that day and it started aching at 8 miles, that’s a big mistake. Trust me.
If I got in one of those situations, if I was out on a run, if I was doing a long run, if I was running 20 miles and my foot started to ache around 12 miles or 13 miles and every single foot strike, my foot hits the ground, I feel this throbbing sensation every time my foot lands, I would call for a ride. I would not run the rest of the route. I would not run all the way. I could not keep running to see what happens. I would not run just because I have it on the calendar. That’s a huge mistake. That’s the biggest mistake runners make. They’ll do that, their foot’s swollen the next day. They’ll maybe take a day off and then they’ll go try to run again just to see what happens. That’s a huge mistake. Don’t ever do that. If you can avoid it, don’t keep running until you know what the deal is and you can do something to address it.
A second mistake the runners make is that they will run less but not reduce the stress. What do I mean by that? Well, the thing is is that you don’t have to stop running. So, this is like the worst of both worlds. They’ll get a stress fracture. You’re running along, you feel this throbbing pain, you think it’s a stress fracture, your foot’s a little swollen, it kind of hurts when you’re running. It barely hurts when you’re walking and you basically just … Instead of running 10 miles, you’ll run seven or instead of running five miles, you’ll run three but you don’t change anything. You’re not using different shoes. You haven’t modified the inserts in your shoes to move the stress away from that injured metatarsal to a different bone. You haven’t done anything with your running form. You haven’t done anything to actually reduce the stress to the bone and that just keeps applying an injuring stress to a bone that’s already weaker and is more susceptible to continue reinjury or further injury. Remember, if you have a stress fracture, it’s not that you have to stop running but you have to reduce the stress to the bone.
The third huge mistake I see runners make is they give up on their goals. This is because they’ll go see a doctor who says, “You just have to stop running. You can’t do the Boston Marathon. You can’t do Ironman Hawaii. You can’t do the Houston Marathon.” You can’t do whatever it is that’s on your schedule because your foot is injured and it’s going to take four to six weeks to heal. They give you the same answer that they give every other patient on the schedule, even if they’re not runners but that’s not true. You can do lots of things to heal stress fractures faster. You can also often heal faster than normal non-athletic patients because you’re younger, healthier, your prime to heal, you have better blood flow. You have lots of things working in your favor. So, don’t give up on your goals. That is not always necessary and truthfully, it’s going to crush your spirit if you do that. So, don’t give up on your goals and just figure out what you can actually do, what do you have control over, what can you change, what can you do to get back on track, go run your race, go finish your race, go finish in your goal time, whatever. You got to figure out what you can do to actually get back on track to achieve your goals and keep running.
If you have a question that you would like answered as a future edition the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me, and then make sure you join me in the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast. Thanks again for listening!
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