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Phys Sportsmed. 2012 Sep;40(3):32-42. doi: 10.3810/psm.2012.09.1978.

The pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of stress fractures in postmenopausal women.

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  • 1Trauma Registrar, Oxford John Radcliffe Hospitals rotation, Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom; Honorary Research Associate, Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, London, United Kingdom.



Increasing numbers of elderly individuals are now participating in marathons. With increased participation in running, there has been an increase in the diagnosis of stress fractures in the elderly population. Postmenopausal women are particularly at risk due to osteoporosis.


There are numerous risk factors for stress fractures in the literature that need to be addressed to reduce the risk of injury and recurrence in postmenopausal women. Diagnostic tests include plain radiograph, ultrasound, therapeutic ultrasound, computed tomography scan, and isotope bone scans; however, magnetic resonance imaging remains the gold standard. Treatment is based on risk stratification, with high-risk fractures managed aggressively with either non-weightbearing or surgical intervention. Although exercise is prescribed as a well-recognized treatment modality of poor bone density, balance is essential to avoid precipitating stress fractures.


Optimal exercise programs should balance the beneficial effect of increasing bone mineral density through exercise with the detrimental effect of stress fractures. A useful algorithm is presented in this article to guide the clinician in the diagnosis and management of appropriate investigations and management of such injuries. This review article describes the pathophysiology and provides a review of the literature to determine the latest diagnostic and treatment strategies for this unique population.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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