Symptoms of a Femoral Neck Stress Fracture
6 weeks before I was supposed to run the Boston Marathon, my hip was badly injured during an 18 mile run. When I first went to the doctor, I was told I did not fit the “demographics” for a person that usually gets stress fractures. In fact, for 2 months I was told it was not a stress fracture.
6 months later, as I sit here healing from my SECOND femoral neck stress fracture (we’ll get to that story later in another post)–looking back at it, the stress fracture symptoms were pretty obvious at the time—had I only known what I was supposed to look for. Had I known, perhaps it could have saved me some heartache.
So, I thought I’d take the time right now to describe what those symptoms were, just in case anyone else may be in the same predicament I was (and if you are, I am so sorry!). I am not a doctor, so all I can offer is my own personal experience in the matter. Chances are different people may experience different symptoms, but these were mine, and they were the same for both femoral neck stress fractures.
Symptoms of a Femoral Neck Stress Fracture:
- It still hurts after 6 weeks. If you were diagnosed with a hip flexor strain, and it has been 6 weeks or more and the pain is still there, chances are it could be a stress fracture. Go with your gut. If you feel like it is something more, request an MRI.
- Leading up to a stress fracture, the hip feels “tired” all the time. That is the best way I can describe a stress reaction (the precursor to a stress fracture). My right hip felt off-balance all the time; in general, it was just “off.” My stride lacked fluidity, and if felt like the opposite leg always had to do the “leading.”
- There is constant soreness in the hip area, as well as surrounding areas, such as the glutes. This is why femoral neck stress fractures often get misdiagnosed. All the muscles surrounding the stress fracture are working extra hard to protect the cracked bone, so they become very sore. My groin was often swollen and sore, which is similar to what a hip flexor strain or tear looks like.
- You fail the “hop” test. If you can’t jump on your leg without experiencing extreme pain, you could very well have a stress fracture. In the beginning, you might not even be able to stand on one foot without feeling a very sharp pain. Even the thought of jumping on that leg will make you wince (if that is the case, don’t do it!).
- You can’t lift your leg while lying flat on your back. In the beginning, I couldn’t do it all. My leg simply “wouldn’t work.” As it started to heal, I could lift my leg, but not without pain. (I am not sure if this is a medically documented symptom of femoral neck stress fractures, but this is my own personal experience).
- Sitting cross-legged is painful. Sitting cross-legged was also extremely painful for the first five weeks or so. I remember when I first got my stress fracture, when I did yoga, I had to sit on my knees rather than cross-legged (again, personal experience here, others may or may not go through this).
- The pain gets worse during activity, not better. This is another tell-tale sign it could be a stress fracture. With many injuries, the pain actually subsides after a half mile or so into a run, but with a stress fracture, it gets progressively worse. Also, it starts to feel better after a few days of no activity (until you test it again, and then you are sadly reminded that YES, it is still there!)
One more thing to consider before I sign off talking about symptoms: Unlike other stress fractures such as in the shin or foot, femoral neck stress fractures are very internal. The pain will feel “deep.” The classic “press test”–which is when you press externally on the bone and can feel pain on the stress fracture area–does not usually work for a femoral neck stress fracture.
Above all, if your gut is telling you that your injury is more than a strain or tear, by all means, ask for an MRI. You may need to be persistent, but if your insurance covers it, an MRI may be your best bet. A femoral neck stress fracture is considered high-risk, and continuing to run on one can cause serious, life-long damage. It is worth it to know!!
Have you been diagnosed with a femoral neck stress fracture or other serious running injury? Look for my post soon on How to Mentally Cope With a Major Running Injury.