Signs & symptoms of tibia stress fracture

Written by susan s. davis
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The tibia is the larger bone in the lower leg and is used primarily for load bearing. Stress fractures, or tiny cracks in the bone, are usually caused by some form of repetitive force, such as jumping or running. Stress fractures may also occur from overuse or simply from normal use of a tibia bone that has already been weakened by a prior health condition, such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

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Gradually Increasing Pain

Initially, a tibia stress fracture may be more of an annoyance than a pronounced or specific pain. The pain can build gradually during vigorous physical exercise such as running. The leg may continue to throb even after working out or moving. Unlike other leg injuries, there is rarely any weakness or numbness while the leg is at rest.

Pain During Physical Activities

Pain may begin to occur during physical activity involving the tibial region, including walking, working out with weights or doing simple yoga. The pain may increase with physical activity and then decrease as soon as the area is at rest. In addition, pain may begin to persist even while the body is at rest, without prior physical activity. Pain may increase so much over time that doing even simple physical activities is not possible.

Swelling and Tenderness

A specific spot on the tibia may feel tender, warm or painful to the touch, have redness or some other discolouration, or swelling. The area may appear to be bruised as well. At times, there may also be a specific point of tenderness on the inside of the lower calf that is particularly noticeable while applying deep pressure. The tibia may hurt and there may be a hard nodule that appears on the bone surface. Soft tissue damage may include muscle weakness, soreness, tenderness and heat that may include the knee joint. Fractures that include the knee joint may extend to the tibia. Arthritic symptoms such as instability and loss of motion can sometimes be signs of tibia stress fractures and may contribute to causing them.

Impacted Range of Motion

Tibia stress fractures can cause the inability to perform certain physical manoeuvres such as hopping, and pain may occur while performing the activity. Flexibility of the tibial region and some areas connected to it may be lessened. Lower limb alignment, including leg length, foot structure and motor function may display strength imbalances.

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