What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints are an injury causing pain along the lower front of the leg (along the front and inside edge of the shin). The pain is caused by stress on the shinbone (tibia) and the connective tissues that attach the muscles in the lower leg to the shinbone. Shin splints are also known as medial tibial stress syndrome.
What causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are a result of an overload of stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the surrounding muscles to the bone. Running is the most common cause of shin splints. The condition can result from excessive training, increasing the frequency, duration or intensity of an activity too much or too fast, running on slanted, downhill, or hard surfaces for prolonged periods, engaging in activities requiring frequent stops and starts, or wearing footwear that does not provide enough cushioning or support (usually because it is worn out). Overpronation or oversupination of the feet can make it more likely that individuals will suffer from shin splints.
What are the symptoms of Shin Splints?
The primary symptom of shin splints is pain or soreness that occurs along the front inner portion of the lower leg. Some swelling and tenderness may also be present. The pain from shin splints will typically subside when you stop exercising, but over time as the condition worsens, you may experience pain even after you stop running. In some cases, pain may be noticeable when an activity begins but will ease as the activity continues, returning once the activity is completed.
How are Shin Splints diagnosed?
A medical professional will take a thorough medical history and ask patients about what they were doing prior to the pain beginning. A physical and manual exam will be performed to determine the extent of swelling and tenderness and to determine where the pain is felt. When palpating the muscle just inside the shinbone there may be tenderness or lumpiness. X-rays are sometimes ordered to rule out other causes of pain in the leg, such as a stress fracture.
When should I seek care for Shin Splints?
Most cases of shin splints will respond to at-home remedies, such as rest, ice and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, but if the pain worsens or occurs even when you are at rest, you should seek medical care. If you experience severe pain, inflammation or swelling, or if the pain began suddenly following a fall or trauma, you should seek immediate medical care to rule out a fracture or other serious injury.
What will the treatment for Shin Splints consist of?
The first course of treatment for shin splints is RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Over the counter pain medications can help to reduce pain. It is best to switch to exercises that are low impact and don’t stress the shinbone (such as bicycling or swimming) while shin splints heal, rather than giving up all exercise completely. Physical Therapy, focusing on strengthening the muscles in your shins, may be recommended, as well as a gait analysis to determine if there are issues with your gait causing the problem. Once you are ready to resume activity, you may need to wear different shoes, arch supports, or shock absorbing insoles. Learning how to properly stretch is also important in preventing re-injury. Returning to regular activity levels needs to be built up gradually and training schedules may need to be changed to avoid continued pain.
Which muscle groups/ joints are commonly affected by Shin Splints?
Shin splints occur in the front of the lower leg, where the shinbone and connective tissues connecting muscles to the bone are located. Pain is often felt on the inside edge of the shinbone (tibia).
What type of results should I expect from the treatment of Shin Splints?
Individuals that follow recommended treatments of RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) or follow a physical therapy regimen to strengthen the muscles in the shins usually recover fully. If pain develops again during activity, it may mean that you are doing too much too fast and you should gradually build up to your level of activity or cross train to periodically give your shins a rest. It is also important to replace footwear at regular intervals to avoid the reoccurrence of shin splints.