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Getting Back Into Exercise? Take It Slowly to Avoid Stress Fractures

Autumn Years reports on how to avoid stress fractures featuring insight from David A. Wang, MD, sports medicine physician at HSS Paramus, Mark C. Drakos, MD, foot and ankle surgeon at HSS in Manhattan and Long Island and Jessica Rachel Starr, MD, endocrinologist at HSS.

A gradual return to exercise is key to avoiding injury. “The challenge is that when you have been inactive for a long time, the body gets weaker and cannot handle an activity at the previous intensity,” explained Dr. Wang.

“The foot is particularly vulnerable [to stress fractures],” said Dr. Drakos, “When people think of bones, they think they are hard like metal, but the bones in the foot are more like tree branches. They can bend a little bit and if you bend them enough times, they can crack.”

Dr. Wang recommended seeing a doctor if pain persists after a few hours of continuing an activity, or if people start experiencing pain on days when they not working out. “The ‘no pain, no gain’ mantra should be banished from our vocabulary. Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong,” he noted.

“It is also important to figure out what led to the stress fracture in the first place,” noted Dr. Wang. “The prevention part is just as important as the treatment part.”

A deficiency of vitamin D can affect healing, according to Drs. Wang and Drakos. Dr. Starr explained the daily recommendations for calcium and vitamin D, and noted that at least half of our calcium intake should come from foods such as dairy products, dark, green leafy vegetables and high-calcium fish like salmon and sardines.

Dr. Drakos emphasized the importance of wearing the right shoes for activity and supportive footwear when not exercising. “Most of us take more than a million steps a year. So, if you take 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day in shoes that are not giving you support, it is that much extra stress on your feet with every step you take.”

This article appeared in the June 2021 print edition and online at Omagdigital.com.