When to Seek Medical Care
Some parts of the leg may be broken and still seem like a bad strain. This can often be the case of injuries around the ankle, or sometimes with the fibula, the little bone next to the shinbone.
Call your doctor if these conditions describe your situation:
- You are not able to walk without a great amount of pain.
- It hurts when you push on the bony parts of the leg.
- You are concerned that you may have a broken leg, even if you are unsure.
f you think you or someone else has a broken leg, go to an emergency department for further evaluation. If you cannot walk, you should call 911 for an ambulance.
- If you have had a surgery, or had a splint or cast placed already, return to the hospital immediately if these problems develop:
- Loss of muscle strength or numbness in the leg or foot. A certain amount of strength loss is common because of the pain of the fracture, but if there is a rapid development of numbness or worsening of strength, or a significant increase in pain unrelieved by your pain medication, these may be signs of a "compartment syndrome." Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling gets so severe within the leg that it cuts off blood flow to the leg. This can cause damage to muscles and nerves of the leg.
- Redness, fever, increased swelling or pain, or drainage of pus from a surgical incision are all signs of possible wound infection.
Exams and Tests
The doctor will examine the leg for evidence of a break (fracture). If the doctor suspects that a bone has been broken, x-rays will be ordered.
- The doctor also will look for signs that an artery or nerve was damaged or injured. To do this, the doctor will feel for pulses and test your strength and sense of touch below the injury.
- If the doctor suspects some other medical condition has caused weakening of the bone leading to the fracture, other lab tests may be ordered.
- Diagnosis of stress fractures are often difficult, and special studies beyond x-rays may be needed.
Broken Leg Treatment Self-Care at Home
If an injury happens and you suspect a break, remember the following:
- Immobilize the leg as much as possible until help arrives.
- Rest. Try to keep from aggravating the injury.
- Apply an ice pack wrapped in a pillowcase or towel to decrease swelling.
- If possible, keep the leg elevated with pillows or cushions to decrease swelling.
- Often with a broken leg, an operation is necessary. For this reason, do not let someone with a broken leg eat or drink anything until seen by the doctor. Always ask the doctor if it would be OK to eat before doing so.