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.
A shinbone fracture is caused by trauma to the shinbone. Trauma includes:
Factors that may increase your chance of a shinbone fracture include:
Shinbone fracture may cause:
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:
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your shinbone. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
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:
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.
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.
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.
To help reduce your chance of a shinbone fracture:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Physical Therapy Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Fractures of the proximal tibia (shinbone). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00393. Updated July 2013. Accessed September 29, 2013.
Giannoudis PV, Papakostidis C, et al. A review of the management of open fractures of the tibia and femur. J Bone & Joint Surg (British Vol). 2006;88:281-289.
Tibia (shinbone) shaft fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00522. Updated March 2010. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Tibial plateau fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com. Updated May 30, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Tibial stress fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 13, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
What are ways to prevent falls and related fractures? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent_falls_ff.asp. Updated January 2011. Accessed September 28, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.