Recovering From A Broken Fibula

Feb 23, 2018

If you sustain a broken fibula, it’s important to set appropriate expectations when it comes to the amount of effort and time it takes to completely heal. The fibula is the smaller of two bones found in the lower part of the leg. It and the tibia, the larger bone, therefore, support all of your weight when standing. Because of this and unlike other types of injuries and conditions, a broken fibula usually requires six weeks to three months before patients are able to return to their normal routine. Understanding how to help heal your fibula fracture is important to help you prevent further damage and accelerate healing time.


There are several different ways you can fracture or break your fibula. The break may occur anywhere from your ankle to your knee. Many athletes break their fibula, although it can happen from slipping, stepping into a hole, or many other common issues. The type of break depends on a number of factors. For example, with a lateral malleolus break, the ankle joint isn’t damaged in any way, but with a bimalleolar ankle break, the fibula and ankle are both damaged. All fibula breaks are serious and can leave you unable to fully walk, or perform standard daily activities without help, for weeks or months.

Symptoms and Causes of a Broken Fibula

A broken fibula can present various symptoms depending on the fracture’s severity, including sharp pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty bearing weight, a noticeable deformity in severe cases, and limited mobility, especially around the ankle. Stress fractures, common among athletes, may exhibit milder symptoms like a dull ache that worsens with activity.

The fibula can break due to various reasons, ranging from direct trauma to overuse injuries. Common causes include:

  • Direct Impact: This could be from a fall, a direct hit to the leg, or a car accident.
  • Twisting Injuries: The fibula can fracture if the foot is planted one way and the body moves in the opposite direction, common in sports or accidents.
  • Overuse: Repetitive stress on the leg, such as long-distance running, can lead to stress fractures.
  • Osteoporosis: This condition weakens bones, making them more susceptible to breaks from minor stresses.

Can You Walk on a Fractured Fibula?

Whether or not an individual can walk on a fractured fibula depends on the fracture’s severity. In cases of a mild fracture, such as a small crack or a stress fracture, individuals might not initially realize the severity of their injury and continue to place weight on it, which can lead to a more complicated recovery. The continued stress on the fracture can disrupt the healing process, potentially resulting in a longer recovery period, improper healing, or even the need for surgery to correct the damage. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical attention if a fibula fracture is suspected, even if the symptoms seem manageable.

Immediate Treatment

Although a broken fibula may not continuously create intense levels of pain, it is important that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible after an injury occurs. The chances of prolonging the recovery process, experiencing a relapse, or developing particular impairments as a result of not healing properly increases without immediate attention. You are likely to find it very difficult to walk and stand for long periods of time with a broken fibula, so it’s not a condition you can easily ignore.

It’s important to remember the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Elevate, especially right after the break. This helps to reduce the inflammation around the break and the amount of pain you’re in. Even if you’ve had a cast put on and cannot put ice directly on the break, you still need to rest as much as possible and elevate your leg.

Patients have the greatest opportunity to experience a quick, complete, and healthy recovery when they are able to connect with one of the Atlanta Orthopedic Doctors at AICA Orthopedics soon after an accident occurs. Our clinic has the resources, staff, and experience necessary to diagnose and treat a broken fibula, allowing our patients to return to their routines as soon as possible. Don’t wait to have your leg examined if you believe you have broken your fibula.

If you sustain a complete break, you will need to wear a medical boot for at least two months to help stabilize and protect the leg. Depending on the extent of the fracture or break, surgery may be the most appropriate option to fully recover from a break in your fibula. This surgery normally involves adding screws or plates to the area around the break to hold it in place while it heals. These metal items become a part of your fibula and are not removed.

Recovering From A Broken Fibula

The most important thing patients can do to recover from a broken fibula is to allow themselves to rest and relax during the recovery process. Although it can be challenging to refrain from engaging in your favorite activities, a broken fibula requires time to regain its strength and stability. You will likely have to use crutches or a knee scooter for several weeks during the recovery process so you don’t put too much pressure on the break.

Attempting to rush the process against your doctor’s advice will only result in furthering your recovery time. Nevertheless, your doctor may recommend physical therapy and some low-impact exercises that can help stretch and strengthen the injured leg. Some of the most common activities recommended to patients with a broken fibula include:

  • Yoga techniques that can be performed while seated or lying down
  • Swimming routines that provide cardio support without exposing your body to impact
  • Free weights that focus on strengthening back, chest, and arm muscles
  • Floor workouts that focus on supporting the core muscles
  • Any exercise that does not require you to put weight on your injured leg.

Fibula Fracture Recovery Time

For minor fibula fractures or breaks, recovery can be as quick as about six weeks to make a full recovery. However, for most cases involving a broken fibula, the recovery time will take at least twice that amount, if not longer.

Without Surgery: If the break involves damage to the bone, blood vessels, soft tissue, and nerves but doesn’t require surgery, it normally takes three months or more to recover fully. Initially, you may not be able to put weight on the leg for several weeks.

With Surgery (Plate and Screws): When a broken fibula is severe enough to require surgery, such as the insertion of a plate and screws to stabilize the bone, the recovery time can vary. Post-surgery, patients often need to wait until the bone has healed sufficiently before bearing weight, which can take 6 to 8 weeks, followed by rehabilitation. The total recovery time after surgery can range from 3 to 6 months, depending on the injury’s complexity, the surgery’s success, and the patient’s adherence to rehabilitation protocols.

Individuals who are required to stand for long hours at work will likely need several months off before attempting to return to their job.

Contact AICA Orthopedics To Recover From A Broken Fibula

If you sustain a broken fibula, prevent further injury or potential relapses from occurring by contacting AICA Orthopedics right away. Dial (404) 855-2141 to schedule a consultation or learn more about our approach to treatment or a complete examination to kick start the recovery process.


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