Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, refer to the pain or ache you feel along the outer edge of the shinbone or just behind the shinbone. Shin splints is a common sports injury that occurs mostly in runners, dancers or those who participate in activities with sudden stops and starts, such as basketball, soccer or tennis. The pain usually occurs in the early portion of a workout, and then gradually recedes only to reappear near the end of the workout. Typically the pain is dull at first, however if continued the pain may become extreme to the point of causing the athlete to stop the activity or workouts in general. Other symptoms include tenderness or soreness along the inner part of your lower leg as well as swelling in your lower leg.
The exact injury is unknown but shin splints seem to result from inflammation due to injury of the tendon and adjacent tissues in the front of the outer leg, especially involving those muscles used in lifting the foot. Shin splints are caused by excessive force or overload on the shinbone and the connective tissue that attaches your muscles to the bone, as well as a sudden increase in distance or intensity of the workout. Other causes include:
- Running downhill
- Running on a slanted or tilted surface
- Running in worn-out or ill-fitting footwear
- Sports with frequent starts and stops
- Training errors such as running too hard, too fast, or for too long
- Stress fractures- tiny breaks or cracks in the bone also caused by overuse
Other situations that may cause or help aggravate shin splints include the tendency to pronate the foot (rolling the foot excessively inward to the arch), having flat feet, a tight Achilles tendon or weak ankle muscles.
With most cases shin splints may be treated with simple self-care tips, however in more moderate to severe cases physical therapy can be very beneficial in order to strengthen the muscles, reduce and relieve pain, and maintain range of motion through manual therapy and stretching. Some of the treatment tips for home include icing the shin, take an anti-inflammatory painkiller, rest your body, elevate the leg and/or use a compression sleeve to reduce the swelling, wear proper shoes, and possibly consider arch supports to disperse stress on the shin bones. As far as returning to activities it’s important to gradually ease back into the sport/activity as well as gradually increase the intensity. Workouts such as stationary bicycling and swimming are good for maintaining cardio fitness as well.
Shin splints can be prevented by choosing the right footwear that suits your sports or activities, use arch supports, cross train running or high impact activities with a low impact sport such as swimming or biking, gradually increase time and intensity, use strengthening exercises for your calf muscles such as toe/heel raises, and know when to rest!
We treat patients with shin splints in the 34711 area!