Fibula Stress Fracture: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment
There are 2 bones in the lower leg, tibia and fibula. Fibula is an elongated bone located on the external side of the lower leg. The function of the fibula is transferring the weight from the shin to the foot. There are many muscles which are attached to the fibula and when these muscles contract, they apply a pulling force on the bone. When there is too much weight bearing and excessive pressure to the fibula, it causes compressive force through the fibula resulting in damage to the bone. If the damage continues or the force applied to the bone continues then it leads to a fibula stress fracture. This stress fracture can be a small fracture or a hairline crack in the bone. Fibula fractures are not as common as tibial fractures, as the weight-bearing on fibula is less than tibia.
Symptoms of a Fibula Stress Fracture
- Localized pain and tenderness at the external or outer region of the bone.
- Pain upon weight bearing.
- Walking is difficult and aggravates the symptoms.
Causes of a Fibula Stress Fracture
- Twisting forces on the bone especially from the surrounding contracting muscles.
- Prolonged weight-bearing as seen in running.
- Excessive pronation of the feet when running as seen in athletes.
- Increase or change in the training regime.
- Other contributing factors to a fibula stress fracture are: Incorrect foot mechanics, excessive training, ill-fitting footwear, stiffness in the joint, poor flexibility, muscle weakness and improper balance.
Diagnosis of a Fibula Stress Fracture
A complete subjective and objective examination by a physician confirms the diagnosis. X-ray, MRI, CT scan or bone scan helps in further confirmation of the diagnosis and to find out the extent of the damage.
Treatment of a Fibula Stress Fracture
- Rest should be taken from training and sports till the pain subside and the bone is healed.
- Crutches can be used to avoid complete weight-bearing.
- The muscles of the lower leg should be stretched.
- A heat retainer or ankle support can be used to support the muscles of the lower leg.
- Sports massage can be done to the muscles of the lower leg, but it should be done by a professional.
- NSAIDs or other pain killers can be given to alleviate the pain.
- Patient should start a rehab program comprising of strengthening and stretching exercises in order to maintain flexibility, strength and balance.
- There should be a gradual return to training.