Shinbone Fracture

Definition

A shinbone fracture is a break in the tibia. The tibia is the larger of 2 bones in the lower leg that connects the knee to the ankle. It runs on the inside of the lower leg. The fibula is much smaller and runs along the outside of the lower leg.

Fractured Leg
Nucleus factsheet image
© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

A shinbone fracture is caused by trauma to the shinbone. Trauma includes:

  • Falls
  • Twists
  • Blows
  • Collisions
  • Gunshot wounds

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of a shinbone fracture include:

  • Advancing age
  • Osteoporosis
  • Certain diseases or conditions that result in bone or mineral loss, such as abnormal or absent menstrual cycles
  • Having gone through menopause
  • Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors or cysts
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Playing certain sports that may result in:
    • Spiral fractures—associated with collisions or falls from sports such as soccer or skiing
    • Stress fractures—associated with overuse or repetitive motion from sports such as gymnastics or dance
  • Violence, such as car or car-pedestrian accidents

Symptoms

Shinbone fracture may cause:

  • Pain that ranges from mild to severe, but worsens with activity
  • Swelling, inflammation, and tenderness
  • Bruising in the injured area
  • Decreased range of motion of the knee or ankle
  • Limping
  • Inability to bear weight on the fractured leg

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The doctor will examine the injured area.

Imaging tests may include:

  • X-rays to look for a break in the bone
  • CT scan may be needed for more detailed views

Treatment

Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your shinbone. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:

Intial Care

Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your shinbone in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include a splint, brace, walking boot, or cast. A walker or crutches will help you move around while keeping weight off your leg.

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—you will have anesthesia to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, plates, or a rod may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.

Medication

Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.

Rest and Recovery

Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, it takes up to 4-6 months for a fractured shinbone to heal.

You will need to adjust your activities while your shinbone heals, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating your leg at rest may also be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling.

As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of a shinbone fracture:

  • Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities
  • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone

To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:

  • Clean spills and slippery areas right away
  • Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
  • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub
  • Put in handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls
  • Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage

Revisions

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

Make your bathroom safer by adding non-slip mats or rubber decals to your tub, keeping the floor around your tub dry and using a non-skid bath mat outside the tub.