Shin splints are a common injury for those with an active lifestyle; also known as medial tibial stress symptom or MTSS. It can often occur due to overexertion of the muscles behind the shin. There is rarely a need for surgery, but there are a number of conservative treatments we can suggest. Our shin splint doctors are here to help!
Performance Footcare of New York Can Help You Find Relief From Your Shin Splints
Our treatment is based on the severity of your case and your lifestyle demands. We start with conservative recommendations and will move to more involved treatments as the need arises.
- First and foremost we advise rest. It’s typical to feel pain though your shins after a heavier than usual workout. Overworking the calf muscles can cause swelling, pushing down on the shin.
- In mild cases wherein pain occurs following physical activity apply ice to the area in 15 minute intervals. This can help numb the affected area and reduce swelling.
- Over the counter anti-inflammatories are effective in some cases. Common options include ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen.
- Our podiatrists will advise you on stretches that will aid in alleviating the pain. One such stretch starts with you kneeling on the floor with your legs and feet together. Next, slowly sit back onto your feet; you’ll begin to feel the tension in your shins. Hold this stretch in 10-12 second intervals. Another option is to alternate walking on/off your heels in 30 second intervals.
Doctor Facilitated / Non-Surgical Treatments
- Pronation is a term used to describe the natural side-to-side movement of the foot while running or walking. Overpronators experience above average movement. This could be due to a number of reasons; custom orthotics are an option to alleviate the stress on the shin resulting from overpronation.
- Extracorporeal shockwave therapy entails the bombardment of muscles & tissue by acoustic waves. These waves stimulate regenerative healing with the muscle. This treatment has proven itself to be quite effective.
- In some case, corticosteroid injections into the anterior (back) of the leg have been found to aid in recovery. This treatment is unproven, but there has been isolated success.
It is only in extreme cases that our trained shin splint doctors will advise surgery. Shin splints cause a buildup of pressure; doctors will relieve that pressure by way of a fasciotomy. During the procedure, doctors will make small cuts in the tissue (fascia) to relieve the pressure.
Symptoms & Causes
There are common symptoms that present across most cases of shin splints. However, as cases can range in severity so too can certain symptoms.
- Dull ache in the lower leg on either side of the shin bone
- Mild to severe muscle pain
- Swelling in the lower leg
- Numbness or weakness in the feet
- Pain while resting
- Sharp, razor like pain both during and following activity
- Overpronation (the excessive transfer of weight from one side of the foot to the other while running)
- Improper stretching
- Worn out shoes
- Running for long periods on hard roads or in the same direction
- Flat feet or abnormally rigid arches
- No cooldown stretching or exercise following intense activity
- Weak hips, ankles or core
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, flat feet 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.
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.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Shin splints are a commonplace injury for active people. However improper fitness or overly difficult fitness routines can put you at a high risk for this condition. There are however steps you can take to lessen your risk for them.
Change it up!
A change in your typical workout routine could be the best remedy for your shin splints. Embrace cross training and break up your running with biking or swimming. These lower impact exercises can alleviate the stress on your calf muscles reducing pain.
Warm Up/Cool Down
Stretching before and after a workout can increase blood circulation and reduces the buildup of lactic acid within the muscle. Lactic acid is a contributing factor in muscle injury. Following your workout try walking, or light stretches to relax your muscles.