Lower Leg Fracture
Pain associated with broken bones is usually painful. If you break your leg, you might find it difficult to walk, stand or bear your body weight. While physical therapy is effective for treating moderate fractures, more severe fractures will require surgery. Your therapist will help you prepare for surgery and design a post-operative treatment plan for you.
What is a lower leg fracture?
When a bone breaks, it is referred to as a fracture. A lower leg fracture occurs when either or both of the two bones in your leg breaks. These bones are the shinbone (tibia), and the fibula.
The tibia is the longest of both bones in the lower leg. Since it is the larger bone, it is responsible for bearing most of the body’s weight and ensures the proper mechanics of the knee and ankle joints. Among the body’s long bones, it is the one most likely to be fractured, and for the broken bone to go through the skin. When a broken bone goes through the skin, it requires urgent medical care, as it can result in other complications such as damage to nerves or blood vessels.
The fibula is the smallest of both leg bones. It runs parallel to the tibia on the outside of the lower leg. Only the fibula can get broken. However, in most cases, it breaks alongside the tibia.
Causes of Lower Leg Fractures
The major causes include:
Types of Broken Bones
Depending on the impact of the force on the leg, the fracture can be minor or very severe. The bone might also get cracked or shattered. Fractures of the lower leg include:
Stable fracture: the bone cracks or breaks, but remains in its normal position.
Displaced fracture: the bone breaks, and shifts out of position
Transverse fracture: the bone breaks in a horizontal line
Oblique fracture: the bone breaks in an angled line
Spiral fracture: the break encircles the bone, just like a spiral. This is usually caused by a twisting movement.
Comminuted fracture: the bone breaks into three or more pieces
Open fracture: the bone breaks through the skin
Lower Leg Fracture Diagnosis
At Polygon PT, the diagnosis begins with a review of your medical history and a physical evaluation of the injured leg. Your therapist will look out for swelling, deformity, bruising, and pain in your leg. The pulses along your leg will be felt to check for damaged nerves or blood vessels. Imaging tests such as X-ray or MRI-scan will be required to determine the severity and exact location of the break, as well as injuries to surrounding areas.
Treatment for Lower Leg Fractures
The type and severity of your fracture will determine the type of treatment. Stable fractures and other types of breaks where the broken bone does not shift out of position can be treated without surgery. Physical therapy is recommended for these types of fractures. At Polygon PT, a therapist will create a treatment plan designed specifically for you. Your bone will be put in a cast or brace for a couple of weeks to limit movement, so the bones can heal properly. During this period, depending on the severity of your fracture, your therapist might prescribe gentle exercises so the leg doesn’t get stiff or weak. Once your bone has healed to a large extent, and the cast or brace is taken off, motion and strengthening exercises will begin to restore flexibility and promote complete healing. In more severe fractures such as displaced fractures, surgery is needed to realign the broken bones. Metal screws or plates may be attached to the bone to hold it together while it heals. External fixation device – a frame outside your leg, that is attached through the tissue to the bones can also be used. After surgery, a post-operative rehab treatment will be prescribed by your therapist. The goal is to promote quick and complete recovery from your fracture. Recovery from a minor fracture might take 6-8weeks. This will be longer for fractures requiring surgery.
Physical Therapy for Lower Leg Fractures – Get started Today!
Physical therapy is an easy and effective way for treating leg fractures, whether it requires surgery or not. It doesn’t only help to relieve pain and stiffness, it also restores strength and flexibility to your leg, allowing you to get back to everyday activities in a short time. If you have a leg fracture or suspect you have one, request an appointment with one of our physical therapists now.