The term 'Shin Splints' simply means a pain that appears on the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). The development of Shin Splints occurs shortly after physical activity. Shin Splints have been linked with running and can also be caused by sport activity.
Shin Splints are common in individuals that are involved in too much running or other physical exercise that requires putting weight on the legs repeatedly; example of such activities are tennis or basketball and other such sports. Cases of shin splints are usually not serious but can prevent you from exercising and may get worse if left untreated.
What are the Causes of Shin Splints?
An excessive amount of force on the tibia bone and tissues which attaches the shin bone to the surrounding muscles are the major causes of shin splints pains. Swelling of the muscles occur as a result of excessive force against the bones, causing pain and inflammation. Stress reactions to bone fractures can also cause shin splints.
How Do I Get Shin Splints?
- When there is a sudden change in the level of your activity - for example, starting a new exercise program or suddenly increasing distance or speed
- When you run on rough or uneven surfaces
- When you put on poorly fitting or worn-out shoes that do not cushion and support your feet properly
- When you are overweight
- When you have flat feet or feet which roll inwards (referred to as pronation)
- When you have tight calf muscles, weak ankles, or a tight Achilles tendon
What are the Symptoms of Shin Splints?
Pains in the shin bone have been the major and visible symptoms of shin splints in the front of the lower legs. The symptoms maybe:
- Pain immediately after the beginning of exercise
- Pain improves gradually as you rest but occasionally the pain can disappear during exercise and become constant even while you rest
- In the beginning, the pain can be dull and achy but it can aggravate and become serious and deny you from doing normal physical activities.
- Affect the two shins
- Can affect and be felt over a large part of the shin (an area that is greater than 5 cm across) - stress fracture can cause pain in the small area
- Sometimes swelling can occur.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
In order to prevent Shin Splints, follow the steps below:
Analyse your Movement
- You movement patterns can contribute to shin splints and identified by making use of a formal video. In some cases, a small change in your running can help reduce your risk.
Avoid too much work
- Too much running or other high-impact activities which are carried out for too long at too high a level may overload the shins.
Select the appropriate shoewear
- In case you are a runner your shoes must be replaced every 350 to 500 miles (560 to 800 km).
Put arch support into consideration
- In the event that you have flat arches, using arch support can help you to prevent the pains of shin splints.
Consider the shock absorbing pads
- Shock-absorbing pads have been found to reduce the symptoms of shin splints and prevent them from reoccurring.
Add strength training to your exercise
- Exercises for strengthening and stabilising the legs, ankles, hips and core can help you prepare your legs to cope with high-impact sports.
How are Shin Splints Diagnosed?
Your physiotherapist will usually be able to diagnose shin splints during a physical examination. You will be asked about the types of physical activity you are participating in and how often you practice them. Diagnostic tests such as imaging scans and X-rays can also be prescribed by your physician in case you suspect there may be suffering from a bone fracture or other condition other than shin splints.
Treating Shin Splints
How to treat shin splints at home?
It is important to rest from physical activity. Any forms of discomfort you may experience can resolve completely in a few hours or at most in a few days with rest and limited activity. During this time, you can take part in sports or activities that their chance of causing additional danger to your legs is low. Swimming or walking is a typical example of such activities. Your physiotherapist may also recommend the following for you:
- Keep your legs high
- Make use of ice packs to reduce swelling
- Take an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and acetaminophen
- Make use of an elastic compression bandages
- Use a foam roller to massage your shins
It is important for you to meet with your physiotherapist before the commencement of any activity. Warming up before exercise is a good way to make sure your legs are not sore.
The use of surgery to treat shin splints is often rare. But if your shin splints cause’ serious pain and the symptoms last a lot longer than expected, surgery may be the best option which will be recommended by your physiotherapist. This surgery is referred to as fasciotomy. During fasciotomy, your doctor makes a small cut in the fascia tissue which surrounds your calf muscles. This can possibly alleviate the pain caused by shin splints.
When to see your GP
It is good to see your doctor if your pain does not improve despite the above-mentioned procedures.
Your GP may:
- Ask about your symptoms and look at your feet to find out what causes your pain
- Refer you to an X-ray in order to to get a more detailed analysis that will be used to diagnose or identify other causes of pain in the lower part of your leg
- You can be referred to a physiotherapist – your injuries can be assessed, show you some exercise, and recommend an appropriate activity program
- You can also be referred to an orthopedic surgeon or a consultant in sport and exercise medicine