As a runner, there is nothing more frustrating than being sidelined with an injury. Unfortunately, stress fractures are a common injury among runners, and they can be particularly frustrating to deal with because the treatment typically involves rest and limited activity. However, physical therapy can be a game-changer when it comes to healing from a stress fracture.
First, let’s talk about why rest alone may not be the best approach. While it’s true that rest is essential to allow the bone to heal, too much rest can actually be detrimental to the healing process. That’s because bone mineral density (BMD) can decrease during periods of inactivity. BMD is the measure of the amount of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, in a certain amount of bone tissue. When there is not enough stress placed on the bone, osteoclasts (cells that break down bone tissue) can become more active than osteoblasts (cells that build new bone tissue), leading to a decrease in BMD.
This is where physical therapy comes in. Physical therapists are experts in designing exercise programs that promote healing and prevent further injury. With a stress fracture, the goal of physical therapy is to gradually introduce stress to the bone in a controlled way to stimulate osteoblasts and prevent a decrease in BMD. This can be achieved through exercises such as weight-bearing activities and resistance training, which can be tailored to each individual based on their specific injury and level of fitness.
One technique that has gained popularity in recent years is blood flow restriction (BFR) training. BFR involves using a cuff or wrap to partially occlude blood flow to the limb during exercise. This technique has been shown to increase muscle strength and size, but it may also have benefits for bone health. Research has shown that BFR can stimulate the release of growth hormone, which is essential for bone growth and maintenance. Additionally, BFR can lead to an increase in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which promotes the growth of new blood vessels and bone tissue.
In summary, physical therapy can be an effective way to speed up the healing process for runners with stress fractures. By gradually introducing stress to the bone through controlled exercise, physical therapists can promote bone health and prevent a decrease in BMD. Techniques such as BFR may also have additional benefits for bone health. If you’re a runner in The Midlands who is dealing with a stress fracture, consider reaching out to Vertex for expert physical therapy care. Our team of skilled therapists can design a personalized program to help you heal and get back to doing what you love.