What Are the Common Causes of Fibula Pain?

Marco Sumayao
Marco Sumayao
A diagram of the knee, showing the fibula.
A diagram of the knee, showing the fibula.

The most commonly-reported causes of fibula pain are calf strain, varicose veins, and bone fractures. More serious causes include osteomas, which are abnormal outgrowths of bone tissue, and osteomyelitis, an infection with bacterial and fungal origins. With the exception of calf strain, all causes might require surgery for treatment; these cases are considered extremely rare in comparison to muscle strain, however, and have solutions outside of surgery.

Fractures are a common cause of fibula pain.
Fractures are a common cause of fibula pain.

Most cases of fibula pain result from overexertion of the calf, usually through strenuous physical activity. Minor calf strains, often referred to as grade one strains, cause mild discomfort in the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the lower leg, but have negligible effects on the fibula. When the strain reaches grades two and three, however, the two muscle groups begin to swell and apply pressure on the bones, causing fibula pain. Patients suffering from fibula pain due to calf strain can remedy the condition by keeping the area rested, compressed, and elevated. Patients can also use ice or anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling.

Varicose veins can occur on other parts of the body, but are typically associated with the legs.
Varicose veins can occur on other parts of the body, but are typically associated with the legs.

Varicose veins occur when veins become twisted and engorged with blood, usually as a result of congenital defects, abnormal blood clotting, or extreme amounts of physical pressure. Patients might experience fibula pain if the veins near the bone begin to swell. Varicose veins can usually be remedied by alleviating strain on the affected areas, or through noninvasive methods of ablation. In severe cases, doctors might recommend removal of the affected veins altogether.

A fracture of the fibula is a common cause of pain that can occur because of a physical impact or accumulated stress.
A fracture of the fibula is a common cause of pain that can occur because of a physical impact or accumulated stress.

The fibula can fracture as a result of immense physical impact or accumulated stress. Individuals who experience excruciating amounts of fibula pain might be suffering from stress fractures, especially if they regularly engage in intense physical activity. Fractures most often happen near the knee bones, although midshaft injuries can also occur. Although most fractures can heal with realignment and immobilization of the lower leg, severe fractures might require surgical repair.

The fibula is the thinner long bone found in the lower leg.
The fibula is the thinner long bone found in the lower leg.

Osteomas are usually benign growths and cause no symptoms, but they might cause fibula pain if allowed to grow large enough. Patients usually do not need to have osteomas treated, but might opt to have the growths surgically removed if the discomfort is significant. Cancerous tumors also cause patients pain and should immediately be treated through either therapy or surgical removal.

Osteomyelitis occurs when bacteria or fungi enter bones through nearby infections, direct contact, or transmission through the bloodstream. In most cases, the infection can be eliminated through antibiotic medication. In the event that the infection develops an abscess in the fibula, the bone will need to be surgically drained and cleansed. If the infection develops to a point where the bone tissue is severely damaged, the infected portions of bone might need to be surgically removed.

How Painful Is a Broken Fibula?

If you are experiencing intense pain in your fibula, a break may be to blame. While it can definitely cause pain, a break or fracture in the fibula is less intense than the pain you may experience in a broken tibia or in other bones in the leg. This is because the fibula is not a weight-bearing bone. It is possible to break or fracture it without realizing it because the pain, while present, may not seem as urgent as other broken bones.

Different levels of severity in the injury can also affect the amount of pain you feel. Watch for accompanying symptoms that may point to a broken bone, including swelling and the formation of bruises around the affected area.

In serious cases, a bone may protrude from the skin. If this happens, it is advisable to call 911 and seek medical help right away.

When To See a Doctor

If you suspect a broken bone you should visit a doctor as soon as you can. You will likely have x-rays taken to help the doctor assess the damage. One of several treatment options may be needed depending on the severity of the break or fractures. These can range from a cast used to immobilize the area so that it can heal on its own, to surgery to help put the bone back together with screws, plates, or pins.

If you are actively bleeding, or if there is an open wound near the site of the injury, you should go to the emergency room. For cases that are not immediately life-threatening, an urgent care clinic should be able to help.

Fibula Pain Near Knee

Knee pain can greatly impact your ability to go about day-to-day tasks, and determining the root cause is important to helping you get the proper treatment. Knee pain related to the fibula usually occurs in an area called the proximal tibiofibular joint. This is the area where the tibia and the fibula come together near the bottom part of the knee.

The proximal tibiofibular joint has several important roles in the function of the knee and leg. It is the area that takes the brunt of stress from rotational movements of the fibula that happen while walking, jogging, and running. It also serves the vital function of keeping the knee area connected to the fibula, which in turn connects to the ankle. This means that pain in this joint can eventually create problems that spread throughout the leg.

Treating the Cause of Knee Pain

The underlying causes of pain in the tibiofibular joint and knee can include the following problems:

  • Arthritis
  • Tight muscles
  • Injury or damage in the joint
  • Nerve irritation

The treatment for pain in the joint depends on the cause. For chronic conditions, such as arthritis, medication may help manage symptoms. Physical therapy is another option that can help with arthritis as well as with many other problems related to the joints. For injury or irritation in the joint, immobilization in a cast or brace may be needed to help it heal.

If you find you are experiencing knee pain that lasts for more than a few days, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. Depending on what the suspected cause is, you may be referred to a specialist who can help you find solutions to the pain.

Fibula Pain When Walking

Difficulty walking due to pain in the fibula may indicate a break or fracture. Another common symptom of a break is experiencing a limited range of motion in the leg. You may even hear a grinding or cracking noise when you try to move it.

If you were recently injured or if the pain started suddenly, a broken bone is likely. Fibula injuries are common for athletes and people who live active lifestyles. If you suffer from osteoporosis or other bone-related issues, a fracture may occur during simple tasks, such as walking.

Other Causes of Pain While Walking

Pain while walking can also be caused by problems with the joints in the areas where the fibula connects to the knee or ankle. Varicose veins may also cause pain while walking. In some cases, the pain may be more spread out throughout the lower leg. Shin splints or another problem not specifically related to the fibula may be the cause.

These issues all require different kinds of treatment. The best way to get the help you need is to schedule an appointment with a doctor so that you can get a proper diagnosis.

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Discussion Comments

tdavis
Many runners, like me, have experienced this kind of pain while running. It may be related to too much physical stress in this area.

Most doctors recommend that you take a break from running until the pain has improved. If the pain continues, you should see a doctor.

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    • A diagram of the knee, showing the fibula.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the knee, showing the fibula.
    • Fractures are a common cause of fibula pain.
      By: kameel
      Fractures are a common cause of fibula pain.
    • Varicose veins can occur on other parts of the body, but are typically associated with the legs.
      By: roblan
      Varicose veins can occur on other parts of the body, but are typically associated with the legs.
    • A fracture of the fibula is a common cause of pain that can occur because of a physical impact or accumulated stress.
      By: reineg
      A fracture of the fibula is a common cause of pain that can occur because of a physical impact or accumulated stress.
    • The fibula is the thinner long bone found in the lower leg.
      By: andreaxt
      The fibula is the thinner long bone found in the lower leg.