The more common name for the tibia is the shin bone, and it is the bone found in the calf area of the leg. Though two bones run parallel here, the tibia is the name given to the larger one. A tibia fracture occurs when this bone cracks, breaks, or shatters, and it is important for anyone affected to receive proper treatment right away. Here is everything you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for tibial fracture.
What Causes a Tibia to Fracture?
The tibia is a strong bone, and this means it takes a great deal of force to break it. The most common causes for tibial fractures include but are not limited to:
- Significant traumatic injuries, such as those sustained in falls or even in motor vehicle accidents;
- Advanced osteoporosis, which can cause bones to break with very little force;
- Contact sports injuries (football, soccer, etc.); and
- Athletic events requiring repetitive motion that puts force on the tibia, including cross-country running, marathon running, and others.
How Do You Know if You Have a Tibial Fracture?
Believe it or not, there are times when it is difficult to tell whether a tibia has been fractured without an X-ray. These injuries can range from very mild to traumatic and severe. Some people may experience only a hairline crack along with moderate pain, bruising, and swelling; others may experience a completely broken or shattered bone resulting in noticeable deformities of the lower leg and extreme pain. To diagnose a tibial fracture, doctors will likely ask for an X-ray, and in some cases, following up with a CT scan may provide an even clearer picture.
Non-Surgical and Surgical Treatment Options
Things like the patient’s health, age, and the nature of the fracture will all help to determine the proper treatment. If the injury is minor, patients may only need a splint or cast to prevent further movement and allow the bone to heal. They will typically need to use crutches for a while, as well. If the injury is severe, patients may need surgical intervention to realign their bones, and they may even require internal or external fixation (or a combination of both) to reposition the bones and keep them in place. Patients receive post-surgical pain medications and follow-up visits with physical therapists to help them heal.
Recovery from a tibial fracture may take anywhere from four to six months (or more) depending on the patient’s health and the extent of the injury. If you think you may have a tibia fracture, it is critical that you see a doctor for a treatment plan that is unique to your needs.