A broken fibula may be very painful, but 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.
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).
The length of recovery is not the same for everyone. Although the boot speeds up general recovery time, recovery times fluctuate depending on the severity of the break and the patient’s commitment to physical therapy.It is important to remember that when physical therapy begins, there is a strong possibility of muscle pain and fatigue. Don’t worry—this is normal. Remember, you are rehabilitating the muscles around a bone that suffered a traumatic injury.
Commitment to the physical therapy plan is key to effective healing. Physical therapy is most effective when you stick to the schedule and assigned exercises, and continue to care for the injury while at home.
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!