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What is a stress fracture of the tibia?

The tibia is the shin bone. A stress fracture of the tibia is an incomplete fracture or crack within this bone. Physiotherapy is an important treatment for a stress fracture of the tibia.

How does a stress fracture of the tibia happen?

Stress fractures of the tibia result from an imbalance between bone formation and bone resorption (removal). When the tibia is loaded or stressed, such as during weight-bearing exercise, it responds by increasing its bone turnover. This is necessary for it to live up to your demands on it.

If stress is put on the tibia, areas of the bone can become damaged. These damaged areas of bone are then resorped (removed) and replaced with new bone. If the new bone formation is slower than the resorption (removal) of the old bone, weak points occur at areas of stress within the tibia. An area of weakness in the bone can develop into a stress fracture if the weak area of the tibia is repeatedly stressed.

A recent change in training can often be a factor in the development of a stress fracture. This could involve a change in frequency, duration, intensity, training surfaces or footwear.

What are the symptoms of a stress fracture of the tibia?

A stress fracture of the tibia causes shin pain that increases in intensity over a period of weeks. The pain is usually localised over the site of the fracture and is worsened with exercise. Initially, pain may only be present following activity. However, with continued loading and stress, the pain may become present during exercise. Eventually pain may become so severe that it is too painful to exercise at all and the painful during rest and even at night. The area of the fracture will also be sore to touch. Other symptoms may include:

What should I do if I have a stress fracture of the tibia?

If you are concerned that you may have a stress fracture of the tibia, you should arrange a physiotherapy assessment as soon as possible.

What shouldn’t I do if I have a stress fracture of the tibia?

If you suspect that you have a stress fracture of your tibia you should not continue to exercise. If you continue to exercise you could weaken the bone further. This can potentially lead to a longer lay off from normal activity and, in some cases, a complete fracture of the tibia.

Physiotherapy treatment for a stress fracture of the tibia.

Physiotherapy is important in the treatment of a stress fracture of the tibia. Initially, your physiotherapist can provide you with a diagnosis. This may require the referral for imaging techniques such as a MRI scan. From this your physiotherapist can develop an appropriate treatment plan. This may initially involve a period of rest and the use of crutches and icing to help with your pain. A programme will be developed to allow you to maintain your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength without delaying healing. This may involve low impact ‘cross training’, swimming, deep water running and cycling. Your physiotherapist may also be able to determine why you developed a stress fracture of the tibia in the first place and address this during your recovery to prevent a recurrence when you return to full activity.

Other physiotherapy treatment may include:

Could there be any long-term effects from a stress fracture of the tibia?

If properly diagnosed and treated, a stress fracture of the tibia does not cause any long term effects. However, fractures in some areas can be slower to heal than others.

To arrange a physiotherapy assessment call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 or book online.

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