break a leg...
December 4, 2006 10:53 AM   Subscribe

how likely is it that I'm walking on a broken leg?

i took a fairly nasty spill two days ago and now my upper leg is in somewhat serious pain. i am going to see a doctor, but my sense of urgency is swayed by my backed up schoolwork. it is a silly decision, i know, so maybe you can talk me into hitting the clinic.

it's not a pull or a tear of a muscle, i know what those feel like. this is an ache, pressure to the left side of my leg hurts it and walking and stretching tend to bring out a dull pain. i can't feel a bone sticking out but i also can't really push too hard on it without giving up from the pain.

i know that given the location, if it's a break surgery might be necessary and a ton of recovery is needed, but im wondering if it's possible to fracture or break your femur and still walk around on it with a noticable limp? would the symptons suggest a bone bruise instead?

this is a pre-doctor inquiry just to get a sense of how urgently i should proceed to the several hour wait in the emergency room. i can live with it as it is but don't want to risk permanent problems.
posted by dflemingdotorg to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
It is possible to partially break a bone. A greenstick fracture (think of how a green stick breaks) or a spiral fracture may not go through the entire bone.

If you suspect such a thing, you should keep weight off it and get it x-rayed as soon as possible. It won't kill you, but you might as well not make things worse by delaying medical care.

If your leg was fully broken, you would know it. And you wouldn't be walking. :)
posted by jellicle at 11:05 AM on December 4, 2006

In the time it took for me to start to type up a response, jellicle beat me to it. I've had stress fractures before as well as a spiral fracture in my tibia that I was able to not only walk on, but run 20 miles on. (Don't do this!) Do get it examined. Stress fractures don't always show up in xrays, but having one done will rule out a spiral fracture or something worse.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:15 AM on December 4, 2006

A buddy of mine just told me that he finally went to the doctor about a leg he broke fifteen days ago. He walked on it for those two weeks, and the only lasting damage now is a bump where the bones didn't quite mash up correctly and sore ears from the doctor yelling at him.
posted by Science! at 11:22 AM on December 4, 2006

I was in the hospital a few days after a car accident before I realized my arm was broken. (It had escaped everyone else's notice too, and it was a clean break.) Just because you are not howling in agony doesn't mean your leg isn't broken, and if it is, that's something you'd want to deal with sooner rather than later.

Your school has a health center. Go there. This is exactly what it is for.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2006

Can you pack up a whole bunch of schoolwork and take it with you to the ER?
posted by KAS at 11:25 AM on December 4, 2006

In a ridiculous bit of human anatomy folly, the supposedly otherwise Intelligent Designer supplied the upper portion of the femur with only a single blood supply vessel. If you have damaged the femur in some way that compromises that slender thread of life, the price you may pay for not having it correctly diagnosed and treated are various kinds of long term arthritic complications, potentially leading to eventual hip surgery. The general medical description is Avascular Necrosis or AVN for short, and it is a tramua complication that increasingly afflicts young men, often of a sporting mind, and particularly those with a co-history of steriod use. But it can arise from simple trauma to the femur, such as you describe, too.

Don't screw around, and carefully get yourself to your student health services office today. Have fun Googling for Images on the search term "avascular necrosis" if you need additional motivation.
posted by paulsc at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

After you visit the doctor, if you really want to see what it's like walking on a broken leg, put your feet up and watch Touching the Void.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:49 AM on December 4, 2006

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