Shin splints are seen as pain and discomfort along the inner portion of the shin bone (tibia). Shin splints occur after physical activity. They most commonly occur with running on hard surfaces. This pain is usually alleviated by rest.
What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone around your tibia. It usually occurs along the inner border of the tibia, where the muscles attach to bone.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints usually occur with sudden increase in physical activity. This can be due to either an increase in the duration of the activity, the frequency of the activity, or the intensity of the activity. This increase causes the muscle and bone tissue in the leg to become overworked by repetitive activity.
Shin splints can also result from inadequate conditioning: tight calf muscles, weak lower leg muscles, flatfeet or excessive pronation. Poor training techniques and improper shoe gear can also contribute to the condition.
While runners are at high risk for developing shin splints, any sport that requires running, jumping, sustained walking, or frequent directional changes (basketball, football, tennis, Zumba) can result in shin splints.
What Are Shin Splint Symptoms?
Pain and swelling along the border of the shin. Mild swelling can also occur. The patient can describe the pain as anyting from sharp to dull to throbbing. Pain occurs during and after exercise.
How Are Shin Splints Diagnosed?
A detailed history and physical can rule out other lower leg problems. An X-ray can also help to rule out other conditions such as stress fracture, tendinitis, and exercise induced compartment syndrome.
How Are Shin Splints Treated?
- Rest: The most important part of an overuse injury treatment is several weeks of rest from the activity that caused the pain. Performance Footcare understands that our active patient may not agree to complete nonactivity, but low impact activity such as swimming, stationary bike, and elliptical trainer can provide some level of fitness until the shin splints have healed.
- Ice: Ice massage after activities can help with swelling and inflammation.
- Compression: Compression helps to prevent swelling. There are over-the-counter athletic compression stockings that Performance Footcare recommends for shin splint patients.
- Stretching exercises: Stretching of the lower leg muscles can help to alleviate the strain of impact activities.
- Supportive shoes: Shoes with cushioning and those that help prevent overpronation of the arch of the foot can prevent strain of the medial lower leg.
- Orthotics: Again, people with flatfeet can benefit from medial arch support to help stabilize the foot and take stress off the medial lower leg.
- Physical therapy: ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and iontophoresis can help with healing.
- Changing workout surfaces: running on softer surfaces such as grass, dirt, or synthetic tracks can help.
When Should I Return To My Activities?
Performance Footcare recommends 2 weeks of pain free ambulation prior to slowly returning to exercise activities. The amount of activity to start with is determined on a patient by patient basis.