How long for tibia stress fracture symptoms to stop?

Hi guys,

Got a tibial stress fracture and I've been out of training since April, at first I think it was shin splints but I think it progressed to the stress fracture from then. I had an MRI about 8 weeks ago and got the results back about 4 weeks ago, saying I had a possible mature stress fracture in my left tibia. My doctors won't give me any sort of grading, they just said 6 weeks non-weight bearing exercise. Well I'm 17, haven't been running or cycling for 4 weeks... and the pain is still here. It's so variable I can't describe. I had tenderness on my shin, but not in the place where the stress fracture was supposed to be. But this subsided and hasn't come back. The pain is just aching on my shins and sometimes below both knees. My physio isn't much help either. 

The pain isn't as bad as it was, but it's driving me mad. I'm not using painkillers as I've heard they slow healing, I was icing but heard that doesn't help either and I stopped. I want to avoid strengthening exercises too, even though I think I have shin splints too.

Can anyone estimate how long until the pain stops and how long after that I can start running?


  • I had a tibial stress fracture, it took about 6-8 months to heal enough for the pain to stop and me to go back to running (though slooowly back to running).


    The pain wont just suddenly vanish, it will gradually fade and if you hit the ground too early it'll be back within seconds and you'll be back to the start in terms of recovery.

    Ibuprofen wont hault healing, infact few pain killers will, where did you hear that?

     Ibuprofen will help with the inflammation, its the circulation (of your blood and various other fluids through your lymph glands) which will aid recovery. When your injured your body naturally becomes inflammed and circulation is restricted as a result. If you can reduce this inflammation it will help the circulation. Other things you can do would be things like massage and non weight bearing exercise (as long as they don't hurt when doing them) which will help boost your circulation.


    Also look at your footware, when walking it would be wise to wear padded footware. So many people assume footware is just about your trainers and running gear but actually your most likely walking around far longer then you are running and if your walking at all this is impact, you need to reduce all impact as it risks breaking down any recovery you'd already made with your bones. Trainers and other padded footware I think made a difference for me.

  • Well i was diagnosed with a tibial stress fracture six weeks ago after completing the m2m challenge; a distance of 450 miles over 11 days. Prior to that i had been regulary etching up weekly mileages of 100 miles plus. All was well until half way into my race i got injured. The race organiser first thought it was compartment syndrome followed by maybe a twisted ankle. Anyway the up shot was i completed the race by dragging my carcass over the distance the remaining days.

    When i came home i took a trip up to the a&e and they very kindly told me the bad news. My stress fracture (if that is what it actually is!), is just above where the foot meets the leg. I say "maybe" stres fracture, as i have had two x rays with the latter showing some fracture lines.

    How does one go along getting an MRI scan or bone density scan? It would be good to have proof that i do indeed have a fracture. For one thing, it would make it easier for me to get my head around this.

    As it is i started back this week on the static bike twice after having my leg in plaster for 4 weeks and now wearing a walking boot.

    I dont seem to have much pain just walking around my house boot free but it does tend to ache in bed at times especially as i lie on my front which pushes my toes away from my foot.

    I also find that when i try to rotate my ankle etc i get quite a bit of pain on the shin.It's also still painful to the touch,

    My gym physio tells me i am looking at another six weeks before i can return to running. I have to say i am sooo struggling with that. I am an ultra runner and its hard to see my fitness level decreasing. I have decided to learn to swim with a view to doing triathlons next year and have long term goals of the brecon 50 in May and the tooting 24hr race in September.

  • To get a scan, I think you either have to have sound reason, these scans are not cheap and are normally saved for people with suspected tumors. It is nice to have confirmation of what's going on but its not going to benefit your recovery to have this done- it wont speed up the process and there is normally a legnthy waiting list.

     I had the MRI because the orthopedic doctor wanted to rule out anything sinister- not because either of us suspected a stress fracture. It was only because the MRI showed too much inflammation to see anything that he then went to the next step to get a nuclear bone scan, he had said he suspected the knee degeneration but not the stress fracture. I was told to stop running "never run again" and there was no after care. As much as I am and was grateful to the scans for letting me know what the problem was, I did feel like a bit of an idiot and a time waster- there were people waiting for scans who needed life and death help and here I was waiting to be told I had a self-caused injury. I woudn't wish the feeling of taking up much needed space on anyone so unless you really feel it is important or your footing the bill I'd say try not to as I don't think the Doctors callng for the tests will welcome you with open arms (unless that's just my own experience). To most if not all Doctors and physios I have seen, it would seem running is a pet hate, an extreme sport and as if you were a druggie asking for help with collapsed veins. Its not something they appeciate as a health benefit (in my experience) so for them, witnessing first hand how this "extreme sport" has caused a medical injury and bumped up their waiting lists doesn't seem to go down well, I didn't get the feeling I made any friends out of it lets just say!


    By all means talk things over with your GP but bear in mind if one has been wise enough to diagnose something like this you've already come a long way- before I'd had the scans I was being told by physios to 'hop' around until it stopped hurting and to basicly get a back-bone, not just by one GP and one physio but by many (counting 10 medical professionals seen on separate occasions at least) so I'd say if you have a diagnosis such as a stress fracture, concerntrate on getting better and try to avoid scans as they seem to get doctor's backs up (NHS money and etc). Having said that, if your unable to get treatment without a specific diagnosis, by all means but from what I understand, a GP or specialist's diagnosis seems to matter more in terms of treatment then anything else (though having said that, I was just told to rest, no treatment was available for my stress fracture or the osteoarthritis).

  • Having had a SF of my femur earlier this year I can sympathise with all the negative reactions - you shouldn't run again as you're just causing trouble sort of thing but have been able to get slowly back to things. Don't expect much sympathy is all I would say.

    To get an MRI is helpful in confirming the diagnosis, I don't think GPs can refer for MRI  so you would need to be referred by your local fracture clinic or orthopaedic surgeon. I don't think it's wasting NHS money - you wouldn't say that about having an X Ray if you fell and broke your leg - whatever the cause you need a diagnosis.

    Having essentially recovered though still getting some discomfort I think my major worry is lack of advice about what I can do to prevent recurrence - apart from not running -which is not really too helpful.

    Painkillers not really recommended in SF if possible, there are some thoughts that ibuprofen etc slow healing but more importantly they mask the pain so you can be tempted to ignore the injury and make it worse.

  • Hi - I'm recovering from a stress fracture to the top of my tibia just under the knee. I was training for the chester marathon but my leg gave way for no apparent reason just half a mile into my first 20 mile run. It's been just over 6 weeks.

    I had an X-ray, an mri scan, a bone density scan an a vitamin d test. Luckily I'm covered by bupa as I very much doubt that my local a&e would have supported all that! Am still waiting for the test results for the last two but have fingers crossed.

    My consultant told me to stop using anti-inflamatories as he said that they can slow down the bone healing. I'd never heard that before but I did take his advice and switched to paracetamol instead.

    As much as I want to get back to running, I know it's going to take some time as it is still pretty painful just to walk normally. The physio said that I shouldn't think about running until I can hop comfortably on the bad leg - just thinking about doing that makes me feel sick at the minute!!

    All I can say is take it steady. It is frustrating but you really don't want to end up going backwards with this. Vicky - speak to your gp about the mri etc. Even if he cant refer you directly, he may be able to refer you to a consultant who can or at the very least to a physio.
  • I had an MRI on the NHS (plus three sets of x-rays). They told me they do it to rule out any under-lying abnormalities rather than diagnosis per se, so perhaps they don't feel it's necessary. My consultant was pretty blase; said most stress fractures are plain over-use injuries so it's not rocket science diagnosing them and treating them, you just have to stop doing the thing that caused it.

    I was also told the evidence on ibuprofen is inconclusive but it's better to err on the side of caution and take something else.

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