Your tibia, commonly referred to as your shin bone, is the most commonly fractured bone in the human body. It is the long bone in the lower leg situated between the knee and the foot. Your tibia plays a vital role in your body’s movement as it is the larger of the two lower leg bones. It is also the bone that is responsible for supporting most of your body weight. Tibial fractures are most often caused by an injury or repeated stress on the bone.
A tibial fracture is often accompanied by damage to other tissues like the muscles or ligaments, making it important to be seen by a medical professional.
A tibial fracture can refer to any cracks or breaks in the bone. These can often be organized into three different categories based on the location of the break.
A shaft fracture is one that occurs along the length of the bone, somewhere below the knee but above the ankle. This is the most common type of tibial fracture and also happens to be the most severe. A tibial plateau fracture is one that occurs near the knee joint and also involves the cartilage on the surface of the joint. A tibial plafond fracture is a fracture at the bottom end of the tibia, involving the ankle joint. You may also hear this referred to as a pilon fracture.
Tibial Fractures Causes
The long bones in your body like the tibia are very resilient bones. Still, there are many ways you can sustain a tibial fracture. Some of the most common causes are:
- Traumatic injuries like an auto accident or a fall
- Repeated impact to the shin bones due to a sport like long-distance running
- An injury from a contact sport like football or basketball
- Osteoporosis making the bones weaker than they should be
Tibial Fractures Symptoms
For some people, the only symptom they experience from a tibial fracture could be pain while they walk. These are likely small fractures. For others with more severe fractures, the bone may protrude through the skin. Other symptoms one may experience include:
- Localized pain in the area of the fracture or, if there are multiple fractures, pain in several areas
- Swelling of the lower leg
- Trouble or inability to stand, walk, or bear weight on the leg
- The leg appearing deformed, crooked, or suddenly shorter
- Bruising around the shin bone
Tibial Fractures Treatment
The best treatment option for a tibial fracture depends on a few things. This includes the patient’s overall health, the cause and the severity of the fracture, and the extent of damage to the surrounding soft tissues.
Surgery might be needed in order to make sure that the bone heals properly. Metal screws and plates may be placed on the bone to hold it in the correct place. This approach allows the bone to heal with minimal long-term damage. Another approach is to use rods placed inside the tibia or pins placed through the bones either above or below the fracture. These then get attached to a frame called an external fixator that holds the bone in place.
In cases where surgery isn’t necessary or possible, there are some nonsurgical treatments available. A splint or a cast may be placed around the bone to stop it from moving as it heals. The benefit of using a splint is that it is easily removed, making it a more flexible option than surgery. For less severe breaks, a traction or functional brace could be used to hold the bone in place as it heals as well.
Many people will also need physical therapy after surgery. This will help restore proper function and strengthen the muscles around the tibia. Doing so will help prevent another injury from occurring in the future.
Tibial Fractures at OAR
Since the correct treatment for a tibial fracture can vary from person to person, it’s important to have someone you trust on your side. Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside has the expertise and resources necessary to provide you with the correct treatment. Let’s get you back on your feet quickly.