Optical low coherence reflectometry and fiber Bragg gratings written in small diameter (50 micrometer) optical fibers were used for measurements of non-homogenous internal strain fields inside an epoxy specimen with sub-grating length resolution. The results were compared with measurements using Fiber Bragg gratings in standard size (125 micrometer) single mode fibers and show that smaller fibers are less intrusive at stress heterogeneities. (C) 2010 Optical Society of America