One of the questions I get asked quite a lot is, how did I know when my stress fracture had healed? Unless you get an MRI obviously you can never be 100% sure, but I wasn’t in the position to be able to get a rescan.
So, without being able to get a follow-up MRI how did I know I was ready to start slowly running again?
Well, alongside the incredible physio support I received, the honest answer is time. It is so important to give yourself enough time, even more than enough time to allow your fracture to heal. In the grand scheme of things, having a few more weeks off than the doctor/physio says is never going to harm you. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially at the latter stage of your recovery. If you have given yourself more than enough time to heal, unless there is a severe underlying problem, nature should’ve done its job and repaired the fracture.
At the start of my injury I would’ve done anything to get back running. If someone mentioned the possibility of me running, I would’ve jumped at the opportunity. However, as time went on, whilst I was so desperate to get back running, I didn’t want to ruin all the time I had spent repairing my fracture. As a result, I was willing to wait a few weeks longer than I was advised to, to make sure there was no possibility it was still there. I had heard so many stories about people who tried to run sooner than they should’ve done, and they found themselves having to undergo the entire process again. I did NOT want to do this! Injury recovery is a long process!
When returning back to running I was very anxious. I had a heightened awareness to any sort of pain, discomfort, tickle, or niggle in my calf area. To put it simply, I was very neurotic and focused on my fracture spot 24:7! Whilst this is understandable, and it does take time to overcome it, it is important not to let this override your rationality. If you have been given the green light, and have given it even longer, chances are you just need to get started. Once you start the process back to running, you will slowly remember what good discomfort is and what is dangerous. This cautious mindset is beneficial though, as it is the only way you will progress slowly without risking another fracture. It may be healed, but the area of the fracture will be weaker due to lack of use, so it is important to go slowly. This is where I was very thankful for the physio help I received, as they built me up with strengthening exercises and a gradual increase in load, to make sure that when I did start running again, I had as much strength in the fractured area as possible.
Did/Do I still feel pain?
When I returned to running I definitely didn’t feel pain, but I did feel something. I think because I had become so fixated on that area of my body, I was convinced I could feel something, purely because I was so aware of it. I didn’t feel any pain, but I did feel an ache-like feeling. As much as I grew to hate it when people mentioned the word ‘psychological’, I do believe the latter discomfort was partly psychological. I had become so used to feeling discomfort it that area, that it was understandable my brain still thought I could feel an abnormal sensation. It wasn’t until I had been back running for a few months and had actually forgotten about my calves, that the discomfort went away. Whilst it was annoying being conscious of every sort of feeling in my fracture area, it made me take my recovery seriously. I wasn’t going to suddenly start running fast or do anything irresponsibly. I would rather stay on the safe side than risk pushing myself backwards.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!