Shin splints is the general term referring to pain anywhere from the knee down to the ankle. Pain felt on the inner side of the leg is called “medial shin splints” while pain on the outer side of the leg is called “anterior shin splints”. People who play sports that involve running are particularly prone to this injury. Shin splints can be caused by inflammation of the muscle and tendons that run along the length of the shin. Recent research also suggests the symptoms may be related to a stress reaction in the shin bone called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.
WHO SUFFERS WITH SHIN SPLINTS?
Anyone. Any person, who has started to exercise, has increased the intensity of their exercise or has incorrect foot and ankle alignment when walking or running can develop shin splints.
The general signs and symptoms relating to shin splints include:
- Aches and pains along the side of the shin bone
- The area is tender and sore to touch
- The overlying skin may be red and inflamed
- The pain may be before, during or after running
Shin splints may be caused a number of factors. These can include:
- Overuse - exercising too hard or beyond your current level of fitness can strain the tendons and muscles along the shin
- Flat feet - tears can occur to the inner leg tendons and muscles that function to maintain the arch of the foot
- Incorrect technique - poor running style or function through excessive "pronation" or "supination" can strain these tendons and muscles
- High impact activities - the impact of running on hard or uneven surfaces can injure the tendons and muscles
- Running shoes - wearing the wrong type or fitting of running shoe can contribute to shin splints
- Tight muscles - poor flexibility or not warming up correctly can place added strain to these tendons and muscles
MANAGEMENT & TREATMENT
Shin splints can be resolved quickly if you seek the right advice and treatment before it becomes a chronic problem. Our podiatrists are trained in assessing and recommending a treatment regime that will have you pain free and return to your usual exercise as soon as possible.
When the pain begins to interfere with your daily activities or if you cannot perform your desired activities without pain, you should seek professional advice.
TREATING SHIN SPLINTS YOURSELF
The following guidelines are for information purposes only. We recommend that you seek professional advice before attempting any self treatment.
- Rest - may be advised to help strained tendons and muscle to repair before gradually returning to exercise
- Ice - applied for 10-15 minutes every 3-4 hours or at least 3 times a day
- Compression - elastic bandaging applied with even pressure from toes to below the knee can help reduce local inflammation
- Elevation - above the level of the heart while resting
- Modify exercise - to avoid exercises that are painful, perform low impact sports such as swimming or cycling
Ways to prevent the risk of shin splints from developing are:
- Thoroughly warm up before exercising and cool down with appropriate gentle, sustained stretches
- Incorporate a regular stretching routine into your fitness program even on days when you do not exercise
- Strengthen your muscles with specific and appropriate exercises
- Choose flat or softer terrain to run on such as grass or running tracks
- Reduce the intensity of your exercise until you are able
- Incorporate low impact exercises into your routine such as cycling, swimming or walking
- Make sure you wear the correct running shoe designed for your foot type and replace them before they are worn out
- Orthotics are worn in your shoes and are specifically designed to correct your walking or running technique that are the biomechanical causes of shin splints
There are several other conditions that may be resulting in pain in the lower leg including a stress fracture to the tibia, compartment syndrome or referred pain from a pinched nerve. We advise that you seek professional advice to correctly diagnose the condition with the appropriate treatment plan implemented.