Definition

What is a tibia fracture?

The tibia, or shinbone, is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg. Symptoms of a fracture in your tibia can range from bruising to intense pain in your lower leg, based on the extent of your injury. To diagnose this type of injury, your doctor will do a physical exam and may run some tests to get an image of the tibia fracture.

Depending on the type of tibia fracture you have, your doctor may recommend surgery. Recovery time also depends on how bad the fracture is and can take from four to six months to heal.

How common are tibia fractures?

Tibia fractures are one of the most commonly fractured bones in the body. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of a tibia fracture?

The common symptoms of a tibia fracture are:

  • Intense pain in your lower leg
  • Difficulty walking, running, or kicking
  • Numbness or tingling in your foot
  • Inability to bear weight on your injured leg
  • Deformity in your lower leg, knee, shin, or ankle area
  • Bone protruding through a skin break
  • Limited bending motion in and around your knee
  • Swelling around the site of your injury
  • Bruising and blueness on your injured leg

When the tibia is fractured, the other bone in the lower leg, called the fibula, is often affected as well.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes a tibia fracture?

The most common reasons for tibia fractures are:

  • High-energy collisions: These typically involve motorcycle or automobile crashes and can result in the most severe fractures.
  • Falls, especially from large heights and ones involving hard surfaces: This most commonly applies to the elderly, who may lack stability, and athletes.
  • Twisting motions, such as pivoting: Sports such as snowboarding, skiing, and contact sports are a common cause of this type of injury.
  • Some health conditions may also affect your tibia fracture. These include type 2 diabetes and pre-existing bone conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a tibia fracture?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is a tibia fracture diagnosed?

Tibial shaft fractures are diagnosed based on:

History of the patient which includes the type of injury. The doctor will also question on any other medical condition, such as diabetes that the patient may be suffering and inquire about any medication that the patient might be taking.

Physical examination which includes checking for:

  • Obvious deformity
  • Skin breaks
  • Bony protrusions under the skin
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Instability
  • Sensations
  • Muscle strength

Tests like X-rays, and imaging studies such as CT scan, will be recommended. X-rays help to confirm the fracture and also to find out if knee or ankle joints are also involved in the fracture.

After seeing the X-ray, if the doctor suspects knee or ankle joint involvement in the fracture, a CT scan will be advised to get a cross-sectional image of your limb.

How is a tibia fracture treated?

Your doctor will consider several factors when treating a tibia fracture, including:

  • Extent of the injury, taking into account the amount of damage to soft tissues
  • The reasons for the injury
  • Overall health and medical history
  • Personal preferences
  • Any other fractures, such as a fibula fracture

Nonsurgical treatment of a fractured tibia includes:

  • Casts
  • Functional braces, which allow some movement of your leg
  • Pain medications, such as narcotics or anti-inflammatories
  • Physical therapy
  • At-home exercises
  • Splints

According to a study published in the journal Injury, researchers are starting to investigate a potential nonsurgical treatment for fractures involving bone morphogenetic proteins. Research for this treatment is still in its early stages.

In certain cases, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is more likely if you have an open fracture, a comminuted fracture, or extreme instability in the bone or limb. Surgery may also be necessary if a combination of the nonsurgical treatments for fractured tibias don’t work. The following surgical procedures are most commonly used to treat tibia fractures:

  • Internal fixation, which involves using screws, rods, or plates to hold the tibia together
  • External fixation, which connects screws or pins in the fracture to a metal bar outside your leg for added stability

Typically, these surgical methods are accompanied by physical therapy, at-home exercises, and pain medication. Small risks are associated with these surgeries. Ask your doctor to discuss these risks with you before your surgery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a tibia fracture?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with a tibia fracture:

  • Early motion involving the movement of knee, ankle, foot, and toes will be encouraged in the initial stages of recovery, to avoid stiffness.
  • Physical therapy after the cast or splint is removed will help to restore normal muscle strength, joint motion, and flexibility.
  • Walking with the help of walker or crutches can be done once healing is restored.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2018 | Last Modified: January 4, 2018

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