Fractured / Broken Leg: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

Fractured / Broken Leg Overview

A fractured leg is a painful injury that leaves you unable to walk unaided for a considerable amount of time. If you suffered a broken leg whether in a car crash or other incident, you may be entitled to free private treatment and physiotherapy aftercare in your area which could help speed up your fractured leg recovery time.

Fractured leg

Fractured leg

Suffering a fractured leg can be a traumatic experience. Not only is this type of leg injury extremely painful but it puts you out of action for several months while you recover. Treatments for this type of leg injury depends on the severity and complexity of the injury but the end goal of any rehabilitation is to restore full function to an affected leg where possible.

If you would like to know more about fractured leg injuries, the causes, symptoms, treatments and whether you would qualify for free medical care and physiotherapy aftercare in your area, please click on the Select a Section below.



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What is a Broken / Fractured Leg?

A leg fracture can be a serious and painful injury that restricts your mobility for several months while you recover. You may suffer a minor fracture, but you would still need to have your injury correctly diagnosed as soon as possible. Should the fracture to a leg be severe, you may find the affected limb is a strange shape and if it is an open fracture, the bone might poke through the skin.

If you were involved in any sort of incident where you suffered severe blunt force trauma to your leg and you heard a “cracking” sound, the chances are you have suffered a leg fracture. You may experience dizziness and nausea while at the same time you may feel faint. If this is the case, you must seek medical attention without delay by calling for an ambulance or going along to the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital.

You should avoid the following if you suspect you have sustained a fractured leg:

  • You should keep your leg as still as possible by placing a cushion under it for support
  • You should never attempt to realign the bones yourself
  • If you suffered an open fracture, you should cover the wound using a sterile dressing while keeping as much direct pressure on it to stem bleeding

If you go into shock, you must lie down, raising your legs and ideally this should be above the level of your heart which is the best way to improve blood flow making sure that your fractured leg is kept straight with a pillow or cushion supporting it.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Broken / Fractured Leg?

You could suffer a fractured leg in a multitude of ways, but the most common causes of this type of serious leg injury tends to be the following:

  • Falling – you may suffer a broken leg by falling over and although your thighbone is extremely strong, any sort of significant trauma can result in it breaking
  • Road traffic accident – if you are involved in a car crash or collision, you could end up breaking the bones in your legs which commonly occurs when your knees hit the dashboard violently
  • Playing sports – if you enjoy playing sports, the chances are you overextend your legs on a constant basis more especially if you play contact sports but if your leg is struck by a hockey stick, this too can result in breaking your leg
  • Repetitive force and overuse – this can cause stress fractures which are minute cracks that develop in your leg bones which includes your shinbone
  • Abuse – sadly children who are abused often suffer a fractured leg which can occur before an infant begins walking
  • Osteoporosis – if you suffer from this condition, it means that your bones are weakened and as such are more at risk of fracturing even when carrying out normal day-to-day tasks and chores

More about stress fractures to leg bones

You can sustain stress fractures in your leg bones. They are caused by repetitive movements that typically carried out while doing any of the following activities:

  • Marching
  • Running
  • Ballet dancing
  • Basketball

With this said, if you suffer from osteoporosis, you are more at risk of suffering a stress fracture to your leg. Other causes are detailed below:

  • You suffer from diabetes
  • You have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis

More about leg fractures caused by physical trauma

  • If you play contacts sports which includes activities like football or hockey, you are more at risk of suffering a traumatic blow to your limbs which could result in a fractured leg

What are the Symptoms of a Fractured Leg?

As previously mentioned, a fractured leg can be an extremely painful injury that requires immediate medical attention. With this said, if you break your femur (thighbone), this is a particularly serious and painful experience. If you sustain a fracture to your tibia (shinbone), symptoms may not be quite so acute. The most common signs of a broken leg include the following:

  • Extreme pain which gets worse when you attempt to move an affected leg
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • A pronounced deformity in an affected leg
  • An inability to walk or bear any weight on the affected leg

If a young child or toddler breaks a leg, the main sign of there being something seriously wrong is typically the fact they refuse to walk and do not stop crying.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention for a Broken / Fractured Leg?

If you were involved in a road traffic accident or receive some kind of blunt force trauma to a leg, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent any further damage being done to injured leg bones. Thighbone fractures are extremely severe and must be correctly diagnosed and treated immediately, bearing in mind that an extremely severe fracture could be life-threatening.

How is a Fractured Leg Diagnosed?

A doctor would need to know how your leg injury occurred whether you were involved in a road traffic accident or some other incident that left you with a suspected fracture to your leg. The doctor would thoroughly examine your injury by testing for tenderness. If you suffered an open fracture, the wound would be cleaned and any bleeding stemmed. You would be given pain relief medication to help cope with the pain and discomfort before further tests are carried out to confirm an initial fractured leg diagnosis. These tests could include the following:

  • A series of x-rays taken from different angles
  • CT scans which provide a more detailed image of your injury
  • MRI scans which also provide more detail as to what bones and soft tissue damage has occurred

If you are unhappy with your NHS fractured leg diagnosis, you could find you are entitled to a free orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report. This could highlight anything that may have been missed in an original fractured leg diagnosis. To find out more, please speak to one of our health experts today.

How is a Fractured Leg Treated?

The sort of treatment you would receive for a fractured leg would depend on the complexity and severity of your injury. If you sustained an extremely severe fracture, you may need to undergo surgery and have implants inserted into damaged bones to keep them in the correct position. Less severe fractures to a leg can be treated by placing the affected limb in either a cast or splint.

Typical initial treatment for a fractured leg includes the following:

Immobilising your broken leg

  • You would be given pain relief medication before a doctor applies a splint to your leg which would keep damaged bones in place while at the same time preventing any further damage being done
  • If the fracture is severe, you may be administered gas to relieve any pain and discomfort you are experiencing. This is administered through a face mask

Imaging tests

  • A series of x-rays taken from various angles would be carried out to determine which of your leg bones have been negatively impacted and to establish the extent of the damage that has been done
  • Should there be severe swelling to your leg, a doctor would apply a splint or cast that goes around the back of your leg which would remain in place until the swelling subsides enough for a full plaster cast to be applied which is typically several days later
  • You may be prescribed pain relief medication once you are discharged from hospital following your initial treatment


  • Should any bones in your leg be severely damaged and misaligned, a doctor would put them back in place which is a procedure known as “reduction”. If this is the case, a doctor would administer a sedative whether it is a regional or local anaesthetic which would render the site of your injury numb. If the fracture is extremely severe, you may need to be put under general anaesthetic for the procedure to be carried out
  • Once damaged bones are realigned, a plaster cast would be applied to your injured leg which would need to remain in place during the fractured leg healing time


  • If you sustained a severe leg fracture and damaged bones need to be realigned, you would need to undergo surgery. Metal wires, screws, plates and/or rods are used to keep broken leg bones in place during the healing process. These “fixations” typically remain permanently in place providing there are no complications which includes an infection flaring up. The wires are usually removed anything from 4 to 6 weeks after you have undergone your surgery

In some cases, external frames are used to keep damaged bones in place. These frames are then removed once your leg injury has healed. In all cases where surgery has been carried out, a plaster cast would be put on your leg and would remain in place right through the fractured leg recovery time.

Are There Different Types of Fractured Leg?

You can suffer many different types of leg fracture with some being minor whereas other breaks are deemed a lot more serious and which could even be life-threatening. On top of this, you may sustain multiple fractures to a leg or an open fracture which leaves a leg bone exposed. When it comes to hairline and stress fractures, these are generally much easier to treat whereas more serious fractures would require surgery to put misaligned and damaged bones back in place. Internal fixations may be used to hold them in the correct position during your fractured leg healing time.

What Kind of Free Treatment Could Help Me Recover From a Fractured Leg?

Fractured leg treatment

Fractured leg treatment

If you suffered a leg fracture and are not happy with an NHS diagnosis, treatment and/or aftercare, you may find that you are entitled to free private medical treatment and physiotherapy. There are many fractured leg treatments and therapies available free of charge throughout the country and this includes receiving medical aids which could help speed up your recovery safely. The treatments, therapies and medical supplies you may be entitled to receive free of charge includes the following:

  • Free private medical care in your area
  • Free private physiotherapy aftercare which consists of a tailored physiotherapy programme to suit your specific injuries
  • Ice packs
  • Medical compresses
  • A pair of crutches

To find out more about free fractured leg treatments, therapies and medical supplies you may be entitled to receive, please call one of our health experts today.

Could I be Entitled to Free Medical Care for a Fractured Leg?

As previously touched upon, many people who suffer a fractured leg do not realise they may be entitled to free private treatment in their area. NHS treatment for broken legs is good, but often it is not as effective as the care you would receive in the private medical sector, This could help speed up your fracture leg healing time and it would so safely in a clean environment.

Contact one of our friendly health experts today and find out in minutes whether you would qualify for any free medical treatment in your area.

How Long Does it Take for a Fractured Leg to Heal?

Fractured leg healing time depends on the complexity and severity of an injury and whether you needed to undergo extensive surgery to realign damaged bones. It can take anything up to 2 months for bones to mend and heal if you suffered a minor fracture to a leg. However, if your injury was more severe it can take up to 6+ months for you to recover and it is essential that you do not attempt to walk or put any weight on your injured leg during this time to prevent any further damage being done.

As such you should use walking aids, whether it is a pair of crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Doing fractured leg exercises is an essential part of your rehabilitation because this type of therapy helps build up weakened muscles, regain flexibility and mobility in your injured leg.

You would be instructed to do physio exercises both before and after your plaster cast is removed and you should follow a doctor’s or physiotherapist’s instructions as to how much exercise should be done throughout the healing process. It is worth noting that while your leg is in a plaster cast, you must not drive and you should only do so when a doctor says it is safe for you to be at the wheel of a car following a fractured leg injury.

Are There Any Complications Associated with a Fractured Leg?

There are several complications associated with leg fractures which includes the following:

  • Ankle and knee pain – this sometimes occurs when you suffer a bone fracture in your leg
  • Slow healing process – if you suffer a severe fracture to a leg, the healing may be slow or you may find that your injury does not totally heal which is especially true if you sustained an open tibia fracture
  • Infection – if you suffered an open fracture, you could develop a bone infection which is referred to as osteomyelitis. If a leg bone is exposed, bacteria can result in a serious infection flaring up
  • Blood vessel or nerve damage – very often nerves and blood vessels are negatively impacted when you sustain fractures to bones in your legs. If you experience any circulation issues or numbness in an affected leg, you must seek medical attention as a matter of urgency
  • Compartment syndrome – this is a health issue that is commonly associated with fractures caused by high impact incidents. It is a painful neuromuscular condition that results in swelling and damage to the muscles found close to your bones
  • Arthritis – if you suffer any sort of fracture, you run the risk of developing arthritis later in life
  • Osteoarthritis – again any sort of fracture could result in you suffering from osteoarthritis
  • A shortening of length in an affected leg – if a child suffers a leg fracture, it could result in them having a shorter or longer leg more especially if the fracture has negatively impacted a growth plate

Can I Recover Faster, Safely from a Fractured Leg?

A fractured leg recovery time can be slow with more serious injuries taking months to mend and heal. However, with the right kind of physiotherapy in place, you can speed up your rehabilitation and you could do so safely when you are in the hands of a well-trained physiotherapist health expert.

If you are unhappy with the progress of your rehabilitation and you would like to know more about free private physiotherapy aftercare local to you, please call one of our health experts today.

Get in Touch Today and Find Out What Treatment is Available in Your Area

Many people who suffer minor or more severe leg fractures do not know that they could qualify for free private treatment and aftercare as well as free medical aids which could help speed up recovery. To find out what treatments and therapies you may be entitled to receive, please call one of our health experts today. We would let you know in minutes what is available locally to you and whether you would qualify to receive them.

Our phone lines are open 7 days a week, from 9 am to 11 am and a health expert is waiting to take your call. Phone us today on 020 3870 4868, for eligibility and advice.

The Following Links Provide Essential Reading on Fractured Leg Injuries

If you suffered a compound fracture to your lower leg and would like more in-depth information on this type of serious leg injury, the following link provides essential reading on the topic:

More about open fractures

If you would like more information on how to care for a plaster cast, please follow the link below:

How to care for your plaster cast during your recovery