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Lower leg pain

Anton's broken leg, by Frankenstoen, on Flickr

Anton's broken leg, by Frankenstoen, on Flickr

I had to feel sorry for one of my patients last week. She’d been sent in to the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) for an x-ray to her right leg by her GP. Sadly at the beginning of the year, she had lost a close relative under tragic circumstances and was still feeling very low in mood, so having read that exercise can help beat depression she decided to take up running six weeks earlier. Aged 50 she hadn’t done any exercise for years and although she was normally on no medication and in very good health, she wisely decided to take it gently to start with. However, by the 2nd run her right leg was starting to be painful and after her 8th the pain was so unbearable it kept her awake at night. She went to the GP the next day and even though there was nothing in the history to suggest a bony injury, he sent her for an x-ray and told her to return a week later for the results. However, during the x-ray, the radiographer detected an abnormality and asked the patient to come directly to us in the UCC.

The x-ray showed a fracture clean across the fibula of her right leg. It appeared that the fracture was possibly 4-6 weeks old and already starting to heal. She told me that because of the way she had been limping to protect her painful right leg – the left one was now also becoming painful. I made a decision to get that one x-rayed too. Unbelievably it showed that the fibula of her left leg was also fractured! The most likely cause for these types of fractures is osteoporosis (which her aunt and mother also suffered from). I then had to tell her that both of her legs were broken; it was the last thing that she was expecting to hear and she became very distressed. I needed to call her daughter to come in and collect her. In the long term, she will be followed-up by her GP and the orthopaedic doctors.

I amazed that this woman had been running on TWO broken legs – incredible! Once again we see the irrefutable proof that a woman’s pain threshold is higher than that of a man’s – discuss!!

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