Most stress fractures heal in about six to eight weeks, the amount of time it typically takes the body to generate new bone cells to repair the tiny cracks in the bone. After you can walk without pain—which indicates the bone has healed completely—you can likely return gradually to the activity that caused the stress fracture. The exact length of time it takes the bone to heal may depend on the severity and location of the stress fracture and your overall health.
Orthopedic sports medicine specialists and physical therapists at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center and NYU Langone Orthopedic Center provide continued care while you recover from a stress fracture. They can help you return to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible.
Doctors who specialize in rehabilitation, called physiatrists, and physical therapists at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation frequently recommend physical therapy after a stress fracture has healed. Physical therapy may improve muscle strength and flexibility as well as build bone. Strong muscles and bones may help absorb the stress of high-impact activities and prevent another fracture from occurring.
Our doctors can show you modified exercises and other techniques designed to reduce the impact an activity has on the injured bone. For example, slight changes in how your feet touch the ground while running may shift the point of impact, protecting the bone.
To help you return to your previous level of activity, our physical therapists recommend starting with simple stretches and exercises, such as swimming, which put no weight on the bones. If these activities do not cause any pain, your doctor may recommend additional no-impact weight-bearing activities, such as certain types of yoga.
After a few weeks of no-impact exercise, your doctor may recommend trying a low-impact activity, such as walking. He or she may advise gradually increasing your speed and distance each day until you can jog or resume a higher-impact activity without pain. This progression can continue under the guidance of a doctor or physical therapist until you return to your previous level of activity.
NYU Langone offers a variety of wellness programs that may ease your recovery from a stress fracture. Therapies like acupressure, acupuncture, tai chi, and meditation can relieve pain and reduce stress and anxiety. Acupuncture and acupressure can reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and help the immune system remain healthy.
Tai chi is an ancient form of exercise based on a series of simple body movements held for varying amounts of time. It is low impact, and most routines move at a slow, graceful pace, emphasizing mental focus, balance, and calm. Many people find that tai chi boosts their energy level and reduces stress.
Meditation is a form of deep relaxation that people all over the world have used for centuries. During this technique, people usually sit quietly with their eyes closed. Many people find that meditation helps restore emotional balance, reduce stress, and boost energy and focus.
Smoking cigarettes slows the rate at which bones heal after injury. Our doctors understand how difficult it can be to stop smoking. NYU Langone’s Tobacco Cessation Programs can give you the support you need to quit.
Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.