Can you walk on a fractured fibula?

It is not recommended to walk on a fractured fibula without proper medical attention and evaluation. A fractured fibula can cause pain, swelling, and instability in the ankle and leg, and walking on it can worsen the injury and delay healing.

However, sitting on the couch and letting it heal on its own is probably not the best approach. While your fibula—the long, thin outside bone of your lower leg—is healing, you should stay mobile through the use of a walking boot and physical therapy.

Although the fibula is considered a weight-bearing bone, it bears only 17% of your total body weight when upright. Because the burden on the bone is minimal—compared with the burden on the tibia or femur—using a walking boot often shortens recovery time. The boot immobilizes the leg and protects the bone, but it does not restrict movement of the surrounding muscle tissue. The walking motion reduces muscle atrophy, which in the end makes physical therapy more effective because, without atrophy, strengthening exercises can start sooner. This theory applies to all types of fractures: nondisplaced (the bone retains its proper alignment), displaced (the bone ends do not line up) and compound (the bone breaks through the skin).

Once the patient is ready to begin physical therapy with STARS, they will receive an individualized evaluation and treatment plan. During the appointments, the physical therapist may incorporate a variety of treatment methods such as Astym® Treatment, which helps to reduce soft tissue (muscle and tendon) pain through the elimination of scar tissue and the regeneration of the soft tissue; the Graston Technique®, which also helps to reduce and eliminate scar tissue to better the body’s range of motion; exercises which helps to strengthen the bone and surrounding area; and the most commonly used technique, manual therapy, a hands on therapy.

Once physical therapy has begun, not only will the strengthening exercises help the lower leg heal, but it will also help in returning to the activities that everyone loves. The combination of walking in a boot and physical therapy will allow your gait to return to normal more quickly than resting it would. Once the body is able to walk comfortably, running and biking, and all of the activities that were enjoyed before the fracture, will soon be enjoyed again.

So, if you are faced with a broken fibula, don’t panic. Talk to your physician about the walking boot option. As your healing progresses, we will work with you and your physician to design a program to increase your strength and range of motion, and improve flexibility. Our goal will be to build strength and endurance so you can resume your everyday activities. We know you have more important things to do than have people sign a cast!

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