Leg Fracture

Illustration showing the outline and bones of the lower leg, including the femur and foot bones, and showing a fracture in the fibula and tibia.

You have a break (fracture) of the leg. A fracture is treated with a splint, cast, or special boot. It will usually take at about 8 to 12 weeks for the fracture to heal, but it can take several months in some cases. If you have a severe injury, you may need surgery to fix it.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • You will be given a splint, cast, boot, or other device to keep the injured area from moving. Unless you were told otherwise, use crutches or a walker. Don’t put weight on the injured leg until your healthcare provider says you can do so. (You can rent crutches and a walker at many pharmacies and surgical or orthopedic supply stores.)

  • Keep your leg elevated to reduce pain and swelling. When sleeping, put a pillow under the injured leg. When sitting, support the injured leg so it's above your heart. This is very important during the first 2 days (48 hours).

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area. Do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day for pain relief. You can make an ice pack by wrapping a plastic bag of ice cubes in a thin towel. As the ice melts, be careful that the cast, splint, or boot doesn’t get wet. You can put the ice pack directly over the splint or cast. Continue using the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use the ice pack as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • Keep the cast, splint, or boot completely dry at all times. Bathe with your cast, splint, or boot out of the water. Protect it with a large plastic bag, rubber-banded or taped at the top end. If a boot or fiberglass cast or splint gets wet, you can dry it with a hair dryer on the cool setting.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Don’t put creams or objects under the cast if you have itching.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. This is to make sure the bone is healing the way it should. If a splint was put on, it may be converted to a cast at your next visit.

X-rays may be taken. You will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The cast or splint cracks

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint stays wet for more than 24 hours

  • Bad odor from the cast or wound fluid stains the cast

  • Tightness or pain under the cast or splint gets worse

  • Toes become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • You can’t move your toes

  • Skin around cast or splint becomes red or irritated

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Shaking chills

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