My Poor Fibula

A lot of people have found their way to my blog recently by searching for “stuck fibular head”, “fibular head pain” or some variation. If you’re one of them, welcome. Now that my fibula seems to be done behaving badly, I thought that sharing my experience might help others. Here’s my injury story.

– Side note – the Dr. in DrRachelRuns is a PhD, not a medical doctor, so this post in no way represents medical advice. Talk to your own doctor. The medical kind. And read my disclaimer, below. –

A little over a month ago, I was suddenly struck with intense pain in my leg. The pain was in a weird spot, and it came on just as I was getting out of bed. I thought this was odd because I had run the night before and had a lovely, pain-free run. But, I woke up on Thanksgiving morning with a weird feeling in my leg. Right about here…

leg pain

Undeterred, I set off for my turkey trot. I could barely run the 5k. The pain was not joking around. The next day I tried a walk with my mom. No pain! I attempted a run and within a few steps the pain was back. Crazy, stabbing, tingly nerve pain that only happened when my leg was bent at the knee and my foot was in dorsiflexion. I figured some rest and a massage would be a cure. When that didn’t work, I saw my wonderful athletic trainer who I’ve been working with since I had my gait analysis. He deemed it a problem with my fibular head and suggested physical therapy.

At physical therapy, my therapist agreed with the fibular head diagnosis. Apparently a stuck fibular head is a common problem among athletes. It most often occurs following a high ankle sprain, but can sometimes come on suddenly. Physical therapy focused on mobilizing the poor, stuck head. My therapist taught me how to mobilize it myself, which I proceeded to do about 10 times a day. Here’s a neat video that describes exercises you can do at home.

When two weeks of physical therapy failed to cure me, I decided to try a chiropractor. He was amazing and adjusted the fibula and several bones in my ankle. After four or so chiropractic treatments, I felt cured!

Just to be on the safe side, I contacted KT Tape (makers of the wonderful kinesiotape that I love) about taping options for fibular head tracking problems. Their head taping guy, Joe, suggested a taping application. I tried it and it was very helpful to me. I’m now taping for most long runs just to be safe.

KT Taping

Overall, the injury wasn’t as bad as I had initially feared. I wasn’t too happy about taking an entire week of running, or about the decrease in mileage for several weeks, or the timing so close to the Disney Marathon, but I feel lucky. It could have been much worse. Fingers (and toes) crossed I can stay healthy for a while now.

2 thoughts on “My Poor Fibula

  1. Thank you so very much. Had knee replacement 12/6 and the only thing that is holding me back is the pain in the fibular head. The PT is saying ITBS, the doctor ventured hamstring with a promise to investigate further during next week’s visit. I can control it on the Total Gym and while doing other exercises but the bike is killer – my only real source of bothersome pain. More painful than most any part of the TKR experience to date.

    I had an idea of how I wanted to try to tape but was searching online for some guidance. Therapy this morning – ouch! Taped it up before the pool this afternoon and it really helped. Looking forward to seeing how therapy goes on Wednesday with the taping. You and the KT guy are the best!

    Ironically, it seems that the passive motion machine beat up that area pretty bad. Once I was off the pain meds (day 6) I realized a component on the inside of the hinge was the culprit for the raw feeling in that area.

    Say, runners – I am not a runner – I want to let you know that this knee replacement experience is so much better than anticipated. Hopefully you’ll never need to know, but, just in case, take heart. Started outpatient therapy on day five, Total Gym on day 7. My knee is so awesomely smooth.

  2. H, Rachel, I watched the video. The ITB band is mentioned as part of this. That is what i have been dealing with and found particular stretches to target the ITB make a huge difference. The pain i have felt is not quite where you have had it, as shown in your photo, more on the side (not in the crook) and slightly below the knee.

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