Fast facts on shin splints
Here are some quick facts on shin splints:
- They are pains that affect the lower front part of the leg, and are common during or after a sporting activity.
- The diagnosis generally involves an X-ray as a means to rule out other possible issues.
- To stop the pain, the best thing you can do is stop whatever activity caused it to occur.
- To prevent shin splints, use proper footwear.
- Those who aren’t physically active and change to a more active lifestyle are more at risk, as well as smokers.
While shin splints can quite painful and disruptive, they aren’t very serious and can be remedied with some simple at-home treatments. The medical term for the condition is medial tibial stress syndrome.
You can identify it by pain in your lower leg, and it can affect the front or sides of your legs. You will often experience shin splints at the beginning of a workout, and while they can get better as you continue to work out, but as you rest it may flare up again.
It is more likely for those who play high impact sports to experience shin splints, but even leisurely walkers can experience them. Shin splints occur in 10.7 percent of injuries in male runners, and 16.8 percent of female runners. Additionally, those with flat feet are more prone to shin splints.
While you may be tempted to power through the pain, over exerting yourself if you are suffering from a shin splint can actually make the symptoms and damage worse. If possible, we suggest taking a 2-week vacation from heavier activities.
While they are quite common, it is still unknown exactly why they occur; however, we have well documented cases of the risk factors involved. These include but are not limited to: muscle weakness, lack of flexibility, improper training techniques, and running on uneven surfaces. The best preventative measures you can take are to wear proper fitted footwear, and to always stretch your muscles before and after a workout.
How Are Shin Splints Treated?
They often heal on their own, but should you wish to see a doctor they will perform a physical exam to determine the extent of the injury. If you want to expedite the healing process you can do the following:
- Rest your body.
- Ice your shin: This can help ease the pain and swelling, and you should aim to fo it for about 20-30 minutes about 4 times a day for a few days.
- Use insoles or orthotics for your shoes. Shoe inserts can help support your arches when you are standing, and can be custom ordered for your exact measurements or bought right off the shelf
Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, if needed. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help lessen the pain and swelling.
Can shin splints be prevented by strengthening certain muscles or improving flexibility?
Yes, strengthening certain muscles and improving flexibility can help prevent shin splints. Here’s how:
- Calf Muscles: Strengthening the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) can help distribute the forces exerted on the lower leg more evenly, reducing strain on the shin area.
- Tibialis Anterior: Strengthening the tibialis anterior muscle, which runs along the front of the shin, can help stabilize the foot and ankle and reduce the risk of shin splints.
- Foot and Ankle Stability: Improving stability and strength in the foot and ankle can help maintain proper alignment and reduce excessive stress on the shins.
- Hip and Core Muscles: Strengthening the muscles around the hips and core can help improve overall biomechanics and reduce the likelihood of compensatory movements that may contribute to shin splints.
What role does rest play in the recovery from shin splints?
Rest plays a crucial role in the recovery from shin splints. Here’s why:
- Reduced Stress on Injured Tissues: Resting allows the inflamed or injured tissues in the shin area to heal by reducing stress and strain on them. Continuing to engage in activities that aggravate shin splints can delay the healing process and lead to further damage.
- Prevention of Overuse: Shin splints are often caused by overuse or repetitive stress on the lower leg muscles and connective tissues. Resting gives these tissues time to recover and prevents exacerbation of the condition.
- Pain Management: Resting helps alleviate pain associated with shin splints. By avoiding activities that worsen the pain, individuals can experience relief and discomfort, allowing them to recover more comfortably.
- Facilitation of Healing: During rest, the body can allocate resources and energy to the repair and regeneration of damaged tissues. This promotes the healing process and restores the affected structures to their optimal condition.