A Tibial Plateau fracture is really not much fun, but it helps if you are prepared and in many cases doctors will not prepare you properly for daily life after your injury. If I had to give you only one piece of Advice on Tibial Plateau eracture recovery it would be: be patient. And in the end, it’s not as bad as it looks.

Below is a more elaborate list of time-tested knowledge and information on different subjects related to your Tibial Plateau fracture. There are also separate sections for the different stages of recovery (from the menu above choose “1-8 weeks” etc.)

*Note: this website is not intended to provide medical advice. Your doctor is a much better source for medical advice.  This information is based on firsh-hand personal experience and research*

What to expect – overview

You will be leaving the hospital on crutches, usually with a hinged brace. For the first few weeks you will experience quite a few different uncomfortable symptoms but these all pass quickly. Natural symptoms include limited range of motion in your leg (in the knee and ankle joints) as well as pain, heat flashes, edema and stiffness Some of these will be caused by the fact that you are not completely mobile. Things will progress from here until in the end you are (in most cases) completely able to do your everyday activities, but it will take some time and hard work.

Time to recovery

Recovery from a Tibial Plateau fracture is different from person to person. It depends very much on the exact type and specifics of injury, your age, prior issues, level of physical activity, physiotherapy, nutrition and many other factors. Given all of these differences it is still quite safe to say that for most people, if you the injury was treated by surgery, you will still be in some kind of recovery for a complete year after your injury¹. In most cases it will be more than that, Improvement showing up to three years after. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but I can assure you that it does get better and that for most people after a few months your the injury will not prevent you from continuing with you daily life and you will be able to do all your daily activities to some extent including walking short distances, going out, meeting with friends, going to work etc.

Weight Bearing

For a period of about 6-8 weeks after the surgery you will be NWB (non-wait-baring), this means that you can not put any pressure on your knee and leg and will need to use a wheelchair, crutches or both. For some injuries it might take up to 12 weeks until allowed FWB(Full weight bearing). Depending on your doctor and your specific health condition you will be moving from NWB to PWB (Partial Weight bearing) or FWBAT (Full weight bearing as tolerated). This period of NWB will cause many mobility concerns and will affect your daily routine.


You will be spending a few days in a hospital bed then progressing to a wheel chair and crutches, which you will be using for about 2 months, possibly followed by a single crutch and walking stick (see paragraph above – “weight bearing”). It could be up to 3 months on crutches, and up to 6 still using a walking stick (but usually much less). Also expect that initially you won’t be able to bend your knee much for a few weeks. This is called limited ROM (range-of-motion). Crutches are hard to use at first, and may be painful on the hands and shoulder, but don’t worry you will get used to them very quickly. And as a bonus you will develop very strong arm muscles. In some cases, overuse and pressure on your hands can cause secondary injuries to your wrists, arms or shoulders. If you are in pain from using crutches take it easy and use a wheelchair for a short while. You should also consider testing different types of crutches. Forearm crutches are usually more comfortable (then underarm) and come in ergonomic varieties. Today many advanced crutches also support ergonomic designs, anti-slip, and special features (link, link). Underarm crutches are usually safer then regular forearm crutches (link), but tend to be less comfortable, and don’t come with as many smart designs. Platform crutches might be good for people with a poor grip, but I haven’t tried them myself. Some crutches will also have shock absorbers to help your wrists and arms absorb shock (link).


All this will require that you prepare for a period of partial mobility. Things you might be limited in doing include – walking up and down stairs, house jobs (cleaning, cooking, washing), carrying things from place to place (no free hands when using crutches), reaching high and low cabinets, showering. At first, you might also have trouble getting dressed and undressed but this will pass quickly. The best way to deal with this is have friends, partners & family help you with everyday chores and prepare the house as much as possible to make things easier. A few things you could do are:

  • Get a shower chair so that you are able to shower without bearing weight (link) and possibly also invest in some big bags or drycast or other cast covers (link) so that you can shower without taking your brace or cast off during the first few weeks.
  • Be very careful when using crutches in a wet surface because you could easily slip. Even more dangerous is if the crutches are wet and the floor is not. Make sure to dry the bottom of your crutches on a towel before leaving the shower.
  • If your crutches are very old and the tips are cracked, replace the tips with new rubber tips. The come very cheaply (link)
  • Use a gripper (link) to be able to reach those unreachable cabinets and to be able to grasp and retrieve items you would not be able to otherwise while on a wheel chair (link).
  • Make sure that someone prepares food and goes shopping for you. Other options include ordering in prepared food and ordering groceries online.
  • If your bed is on the second floor, Consider sleeping in a different room if you find it hard to get up the stairs. You can also climb stairs with crutches, or sitting down.
  • High and low cabinets are are hard to reach. Try moving things around so that they are easier to reach. Doors on low cabinets can also be unhinged to allow for easier access with a wheel chair. They can easily be put back on later.
  • More useful ideas can be found in the “logistics” section and “Tips & Tricks


Physiotherapy is going to be a regular part of your life. The are several goals: increase ROM, increase muscle-mass, teach your musculoskeletal system to operate as before and increase your stability. It is very very important that you start physiotherapy as early as possible and keep at it until you are completely better. This is the one factor that will affect your recovery more then any other and it is completely up to you. I’ve written a complete section on physiotherapy alone. Usually you will be given exercises to perform from your physiotherapist. At the very beginning you will probably not be able to bend or straighten your knee at all. This can be quite frightening but don’t be alarmed. Initially exercises will aim to teach your neurological system to control the leg again. It might even only be hours before you will start to be able to bend your leg, or it could be a few days.  After this, during the NWB (not in all cases) period you will be performing gentle exercises to enhance your ROM, strengthen your muscles and reduce stiffness, sometimes using stretch bands(link). Exercises might be done at home or in a medical center. It is very important that during this stage you follow PT instructions and do the exercises as soon as possible and as much as possible. This will reduce stiffness, boost recovery and give you a better chance at developing good ROM. When you progress to WB, physiotherapy will include many exercises with weights and machinery with the aim of gaining stability and muscle and to exercise everyday activities like walking. I can not emphasize enough how important it is that you keep at it (even if it means you go to work less). To be able to do physiotherapy at home you can consider purchasing light ankle weights(link).  For more info and tips, have a look at the physiotherapy section.

Medical professional

Several medical professionals will be involved in your recovery process, including the radiologists, the OS (“operating surgeon”), Physiotherapist and sometimes others. You will be having regular checkups with them. It is very important that you make sure your OS is a good one, and that you consult with him on every question you have. Be curious and ask everything you want to know. Sometimes doctors will not be generous with information, make sure that you get your answers. You deserve them. Seek extra information in sites like this one (more sites in the further reading section). In many cases the PT and the OS will be discussing your condition either directly or passing notes through you. Make sure that they talk if they are not already talking, but remember that when they give contradicting advice – the opinion of the OS is always the one to go by. You might also want to consider getting a second opinion both before or after your surgery.


Bone healing requires quite a lot of nutritional help, especially during the first 3 months(This is when the bone is healing), so make sure to eat well, and consider supplementation. For your healing to progress well you need to make sure that you get a lot of Calories, Protein, Antioxidants and minerals. During the first few weeks of healing your body will consume about 2-3(!) times as many calories as normal. This is about 6000 calories per day, so no need to feel bad if you’re eating a lot and very hungry. It’s all going to healing.

Protein is an Important nutritional ingredient. By volume, roughly half of your bone is comprised of protein, and you will also need to get a lot of it to reduce muscle atrophy as much as possible. If you think you are not getting enough protein consider using protein powder to supplement your daily protein intake (link), or adding protein rich food to your diet (meat, eggs, milk products, nuts & seeds).

Minerals are very important for several reasons. By weight bone is about 70% minerals. These are the building blocks of your bones. The high need for minerals will mean you might no be getting enough of them, which can cause other problems. If you are depleted in magnesium for example this may cause muscle cramps which are not much fun during a Tibial Plateau fracture. Consider using a multi-vitamin(link) containing minerals during the recovery process just to be sure. Studies have shown a lower rate of complications in healing in people taking multi-vitamins (link). The most important minerals to consume are Zinc, Copper, Calcium and Silicon.

Vitamins are the catalysts for the process of healing and are also in high need during recovery.  Vitamins that play an important role in bone healing include: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, the Vitamin B-series. Be sure to eat a varied diet and Consider using a multi-vitamin for Vitamins and minerals (link).

Anti-Infalmmatory Nutrients help reduce inflammation and pain. Bone creates a lot of inflammation which causes pain.  Unfortunately it is not advisable to take NSAID (Non Steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs) during the bone recovery process as these slow recovery. Natural Anti inflammatory agents that may work to reduce pain include Vitmain C, Omega-3 (link) and others.

There are many foods you should avoid. Some foods will interrupt normal absorption of nutrients and their consumption should be limited. Some of these are:

  • Salt or foods prepared with lots of salt
  • More than one cup of coffee or other caffeine beverages. If possible, avoid coffee altogether.
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate (because to caffeine content)
  • Soft drinks and carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol (it inhibits calcium absorption)
  • Caffeine (it increases rate of calcium loss and inhibits absorption)


Pain is an unpleasant but normal part of recovery. You will be experiencing different types of pain and discomfort throughout your recovery. Pain might be felt in different parts of the leg, and won’t neccesarily concentrate only around the knee. Most pain comes during the first few days and weeks after the surgery. Pain management is an important part of your recovery and you should not be in constant pain. You should use pain medication as advised by your OS or hospital medical staff. If you are unable to use the medication prescribed by your doctor or are more comfortable using a different type of pain medication remember that some types of painkillers should not be taken for long periods of time(read the label!), and that you should never take NSAID as pain-killer while the bone is still healing. These types of medications will postpone healing. Brands included in the NSAID group which you should not use include Aspirin, Motrin, Ibufen, diclofenac, naproxen and others. Don’t use these. Instead use what is recommended by your medical staff or another medication that is not a NSAID. In some case, mostly in the first days you might experience more severe pain that can be treated with stronger drugs. This is normal, but if you experience abnormally strong pain or other abnormal symptoms, get yourself evacuated to a medical center as this is usually nothing but could be a sign of a complication. Make that in the first few weeks you have a bottle or box of painkillers in your pocket so that it’s always handy. Remember – liquid pain medication usually act faster then the tablet equivalent of the same brand.

Staying at home/Mental Health

You might be staying at home a lot and will be quite immobile for a while. This can get affect your mood very much and can at some point get depressing, especially if you are used to being very active. There is no magic pill for this, choose a good book, and a good TV series and try to regularly talk to as many friends, family and close people as possible. The proximity of  friends and close ones is very important. You might also want to find a community of people who have suffered from Tibial Plateau fracture before who share your experiences and feelings. There are several such communities, and some of them they can be in the further reading section of this website. Also, try to do as much exercise as you possibly can. Even if this means exercising while sitting or lying down. This can give real boost to your mood. Another good Idea is to start watching a new TV-show you’ve never had time to watch, or subscribe to online video providers like netflix or amazon prime (link). If in need, consult a psychologist or mental health professional. It is quite normal to be affected by a prolonged period of immobility and recovery, and a psychologist will be able to help with this.

Physical Activity

You will eventually probably be able to do anything you were able to do before your injury. However, this might take a long time (1 or more year for some sports) and you might have to be careful when doing extreme sports. There is a limited amount of things that you may not be able to do exactly as before, for example some yoga postures will not be possible with limited ROM, but you can always work around these limitations by doing things slightly differently. Also, you might experience some pain which will be limiting. If you want to take up a fitness activity shortly after the injury bicycling and swimming are both good options which will also help with recovery. Upper body weight training might also be a good option but will not directly advance your recovery.


You Might be dying to get back to work or could be in need for a vacation. Going back to work is something that very much depends on you and on your specific job and state of mind. Some people go back to work on crutches after 4 weeks (me, for example), while others might wait a whole 6 months.  There is a good side to going back to work (aside from money) since you will be interacting with people all day long and will not be bored. The important thing to remember is that you must avoid overworking and stressing yourself out. When you go to work it is important that you leave enough time and mental energy to be able to do your physiotherapy as much as you need, to rest, to relax and to visit your medical professional. This will allow your body to recover. You might be tempted to sacrifice your physio for your career. Don’t do that. Your career will still be there when you recover, the condition of  your leg is something you will be living with forever.


There is no physical limitation from having sex as soon as the initial pain has subsided, but this injury can affect your sex life, something which you will not find a lot of information about and your doctor might not tell you. Decreased mobility in one leg and one leg which is half the strength of the other can naturally affect sex. This gets better as your leg heals and strengthens, and you will need to ask your partner to be patient as you progress through the recovery process.

On a good note

Tibial plateau Recovery takes a long time but at the end of the process you are looking at excellent recovery and usually a fully functional life.  Moreover, trying to find the good embedded in the bad, this injury can help you put things in perspective and appreciate all the things you have in life: friends, family, health, a loving spouse. It gives you an opportunity to stop and think about what matters most.

879 thoughts on “Recovery

  1. Hello all, it’s been 5 days since my accident and 4 days since my surgery including plate and screws. I was told that I would be nwb for only 3 weeks but reading these comments it seems I may have been misled? I have only been given sick leave for 6 weeks as honestly thought I would be fully recovered my then!

    • Your OS will ask for another set of X rays before deciding if you can start WB ,I doubt if there is any hard and fast rule but I would have thought 3 wks very early with this type of fracture .Don’t forget your legs take all of your body weight .

  2. Hello, I am 5 weeks post ORIF (3 plates and multiple screws) of TPF. I have been NWB and in an immobilizer the entire time, my two incisions that are nearly fully healed. My surgeons has not allowed for me to have any ROM or physical therapy as of yet. I am concerned that because I have not had any ROM I will have significant stiffness as well as adhesions. My surgeons tells me that I may be able to begin PWB and physical therapy next week if the bone is healed. Do you think that I can regain my knee and ankle flexion and eliminate adhesions with physiotherapy?

    Thanks, Jene

    • Hi Jene,

      Physiotherapy is a big part of recovery, and I think you will get ROM . It will probably take a lot of time but it will be worth it, once you get started things will slowly improve. I’ve been in physio for a couple weeks and notice a difference each time, really important to keep up with the exercises they give you for home.

  3. I’m one month out of surgery and just in the last couple days have been experiencing heat waves, cold sweats, night sweats. Has anyone else had this happen? I’m not sure what is going on but it is very frustrating!

    • Peter ,
      I’m 8 weeks post surgery and I have night sweets and chills . I started off with an infection for 6 weeks and that was blamed for my sweats and chills. ( Be sure to check you don’t have an infection in your wound. ) I still have the sweats and feel freezing all the time. I have been feeling rough since I got the hardware put in and I’ve had rashes and being feeling light headed and I’m starting to think I have an allergy to the metal work .
      Good luck with it keep us posted .

      • Kathleen, thanks for the reply it does help a lot to know again that I’m not the only going thru these types of symptoms. The nurse looked today and said no sign of infection, she thinks I over did it this week causing the fever, sweats and chills. I’m really hoping that keeping it elevated for the weekend will calm everything down, although I don’t know how long I can take these heat waves!!

        • Night sweats were bad for me also. They probably lasted 2 weeks after surgery. I guess it is a side effect of general anesthesia. They will go away!

  4. Can anyone tell me how long before I am able to walk normally without using a crutch? My fracture was 14 weeks ago and have been able to bear full weight for 2 weeks now, but it’s painful and I am walking with a bad limp.

    • It’s really hard to put a time on this…. Everyone is so different. I’m still limping after nearly 10 months post ops. I limp because as the bone broke off it scrapped all my cartlidge away! It’s so painful to try and walk normally with bone touching bone on every step! I can only say with lots of physio they will get you walking well but time is a healer too.

        • Grace – It’s been 2 mos. since my dr. said I could begin walking on my TPF leg, ditch the crutches. That was a very happy day for me. So far so good, but I do have a slight limp, no matter how hard I try to not limp, my TPF knee is a little stiff and there is a slight pain on the sides of that knee when I try to fully extend that leg. I’m hoping over time, maybe this time next year, I will be “back to normal”.

          Luckily I do not have any screws or plates; My dr. said my fracture was serious (occurred first week of April), however instead of screws & plates, he did a new procedure called subchondroplasty. My patella was “punched down” & my tibia had a fine line fracture down the front of it. My dr. made 3 small incisions at the top of the knee, pulled the patella back into position and injected a organic bone material to “back fill” and fill the fractured areas. Over time, that bone material grows w/my existing bone. Fortunately my ACL and MCL (that he feared were torn) were only severely stretched. It was 4 mos. of NWB, on crutches. I did a variety of leg lift and stretching exercises. The dr. was a man of few words, so I searched many sites on-line to find more exercises and other homeopathic remedies, such as using lavender essential oil mixed w a little olive oil and 3 x’s a day I deeply massed my TPF knee area. I take turmeric daily, along with Vit.C, calcium & zinc. It’s been a long road, and I’m thinking the limp will be with me for a little while longer, but hopefully not a year from now.

          Since I got the go ahead to walk, my dr. said daily walking is the best, but not to over do it. He advised against running and jumping for 6-12 mos. and to NEVER make any “cut & run” moves. Since I was in good shape, he said it was up to me if I wanted to do PT. I chose not to and continue my various stretching exercises and walk 1/2 to 1 mile each day. There are some days better than others… I am a Realtor and due to the injury took those 4 mos. off, it was financially very difficult on my husband & I. I’m back to working and have been out showing homes, but do not go upstairs in any of them, fortunately my clients understand. Just last week I wore a slight hi-heel, wedgy type sandal for the first time since my injury and I did fine (still limped a little).

          This site has been very comforting for me and my heart goes out to everyone who is experiencing this difficult injury – I hope everyone on here improves daily and will be patient with the recovery process. If you require knee replacement or further surgery, you may want to ask your dr. about the subchondroplasty procedure and see if it is right for you.

          • Thank you. I am finding the comments inspiring! It’s been a nightmare! Love that you are wearing heels again- I am looking forward to doing the same, but can’t imagine it yet!

          • Overdoing it is my problem. I have plates and screws in my leg, the dr said the break was pretty bad, 7 months ago now. I am supposed to have surgery soon to take the metal out and prepare for knee replacement as well as replacing the portion of the bone that I ruined. I use a walker and my wheel chair and can move around ok. I took 3 steps about 4 weeks ago at the rehab place, on the bars and got pretty excited. I took the walker out that evening and went way too far, ended up with 5 pretty miserable days. I took 6 steps yesterday – really not bad, not too strong but the pain then wasnt too bad – today hasnt been a good day. I telecommute for work and had several very long meetings – was not able to lay down and elevate my foot during most of the day. Very much looking forward to the surgeries and hopefully getting much more mobile. Forget to mention, the dr let me go nwb 6 weeks ago, this was 5 months after the fall. NWB , and let the pain dictate what I can do, pretty exciting. I was a low key runner before, had been running 3-5 miles 4 or 5 days a week , not competitive, just the love of running. I am 63 by the way, was 62 when I got hurt. Take care everyone, God be with you.


          • Good luck to everyone- thank you for your comments. My TPF was caused by a dog who ran the length of a field to get to my dog. He literally came at such speed and crashed into my leg before attacking my dog ( thankfully she is ok)
            I am able to go out now with one crutch, it’s 15 weeks since my acident which happened on 26th June. A lot of discomfort but my foot has stopped swelling at least.
            Still limping and walking up stairs one at a time like a toddler but happy to be mobile at last.
            I assumed my plate & screws would remain for ever but will ask my doc on next visit!
            Thanks again guys!

  5. My TPF was 1/6/14. I have a plate and 9 screws. I have very minimal discomfort from the hardware at this point. Therefore, my surgeon wants to leave everything as is. He says that I will eventually need a total knee replacement and the hardware will have to come out the, but he’s hoping that I can make it for 15 years or so before its needed.

    • I have had two procedures for my tibial fracture,one was a stabilizing bar for 2 weeks,because there was so much soft tissue damage, then plate and screws March 30th. My Dr said I will need a knee replacement to, I am not looking forward to that after 3 months of no weight bearing and a foot drop problem that occurred before surgery was done. I am still in therapy for gait improvement and it is slow going. It is getting better after 7 months but I still have a lot of edema in the lower leg, ankle and foot, and have a brace to wear for the foot drop. I hope recovery will come soon as I have been told 7months to a year is normal.

      • Hi! I had a Type 6 TPF in Nov 2014. One plate/9 screws which all came out in July. Physically I’m pretty functional except for limp and still in substantial pain. Tried 6 ways to Sunday to figure out why with all kinds of specialists. Seeing a pain mgmt specialist now who is doing series of spinal injections to “reset” nerve bundles (or at least that is the hope) which I guess is a common possible condition when you have multiple surgeries in the same location or a crush injury. 3 procedures down – 3 to go! Makes you almost want to be able to start the withdrawal process already – lol!! They’ve stopped PT until the pain can be controlled but I have somebody each day really press down on my knee to get it closer to the neutral position along with my other stretching and endurance exercise. Seems to be working :)

        I too was told about the knee replacement potential (from being on this site for almost a year, I think most of us have). Definite arthritis but they told me a 33% chance “somewhere down the road – maybe 5-10 years) for a knee replacement. Plus a knee replacement supposedly is much easier than the badge we’ve all just earned as TPF survivors – they get you up and out of bed that day or the next – not 3 months later (at least that was my NWB sentence – badly broken bones take at least 8 weeks to fuse).

        My heart goes out to all of you who has/d to be NWB during the warmer months. I found that my body heat fluctuated all over the place but I was thankful to be NWB in Nov-Feb in Massachusetts. I actually asked my family to turn on the air conditioning at one point!! This site helped me SO much when patience was getting the better of me or if there was some symptom like elephant-like edema (elevate, compression stocking, raspberry tea, massage, lots of fluids).

        Good luck, treat yourself to a favorite food or spa treatment, TV/book binge, learn something new online and know you’re in good company and will be just fine!

  6. My TPF happened on 1/7/2013. I ended up with a plate and 8 screws and was NWB for 8 weeks. At the time of the surgery, my doc said that he would consider removal only after 1 year. The hardware has been an intermittent but ongoing source of discomfort and although I hate going under the knife, I’ve finally decided to have it removed. I am active (cycling, walking, swimming, yoga), but my knee has never regained its original flexibility/strength. I am hoping that I am making the right decision and that the recovery period is relatively straightforward. I have osteoporosis, too, so I am hoping that taking the pins out doesn’t cause subsequent failure of the bone. Any thoughts?

    • Good luck with it and please let us know how you get on.
      I had the op 7 weeks ago and so far I’ve had a rash around hardware and it constantly feels sore at the area of the plate . I hope to get it removed one day . I am allergic to nickel and I am worrying that o might be allergic to the surgical stainless steel .
      I really hope it goes well for you

  7. My femur crushed the top of the left side of my tibia on July 28 I had surgery about a month later. This happened at work due to negligence and disregard from the employer I am working for. My surgeon said it was one of the worst he has ever seen. I have started moving my leg but there’s not much rotation. My knee looks out of place and although the break through pain is gone I still have throbbing pain in my whole leg. My foot is still swelled up. How long does it take before its decided to have the total knee replacement surgery

    • You are a long way off from knee replacement Will. You’re still healing, and if you had plates and screws put in you likely haven’t even started FWB yet. Its a long road ahead with lots and lots of therapy just to regain what you lost from being off your feet for at least 10-12 weeks. On average it takes 1-2 years to recover from this injury and a TKR is the last option depending on pain and loss of function.

      • Thanks I wasn’t sure about how the time frame works. My surgeon hasn’t been easy to get a hold of during this whole thing so now I’m in the process of finding another one. I was hoping to have al surgeries and everything done at once but I think I’m just getting anxious and nervous. I have never been off my feet this long.

    • Take the time to see if it heals first as there’s no going back from a knee replacement and they only last a set amount of time .
      You might be lucky your breaks might heal well and you can postpone a knee replacement .
      Good luck

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