What are Shin Splints?  Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Strategies

LEAP Foot and Ankle Specialists
March 25, 2024

What are Shin Splints?  Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Strategies

Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), are a prevalent lower leg injury that affects athletes, runners, and individuals engaged in high-impact activities. Characterized by pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia), shin splints can significantly impact an individual's performance and overall quality of life. 

Understanding Shin Splints:

Shin splints occur when the muscles, tendons, and connective tissues surrounding the tibia become inflamed or irritated due to repetitive stress or overuse. This condition commonly affects athletes who engage in activities that involve running, jumping, or sudden changes in direction, placing excessive strain on the lower leg structures.

What Causes Shin Splints?

1. Overuse or Training Errors: Rapid increases in training intensity, frequency, or duration without proper conditioning can overload the muscles and tissues of the lower leg, leading to shin splints.

2. Biomechanical Factors: Issues such as flat feet (overpronation), high arches (supination), or improper footwear can alter lower limb alignment and mechanics, predisposing individuals to shin splints.

3. Surface and Terrain: Why Shin Splints after Running? Running on hard or uneven surfaces, such as concrete or hills, can increase the risk of developing shin splints due to repetitive impact and stress on the lower leg.

What do Shin Splints Feel Like?

- Dull, aching pain along the inner aspect of the shinbone, typically worsened during or after physical activity

- Tenderness and swelling along the shinbone

- Pain that diminishes with rest but recurs upon resuming activity

- Possible mild to moderate inflammation or warmth in the affected area

How are Shin Splints Diagnosed?

Diagnosing shin splints typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by your podiatrist lakewood co. This may include a detailed medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging studies such as X-rays or MRI scans to rule out other potential causes of lower leg pain, such as stress fractures or compartment syndrome.

How to Treat Shin Splints:

1. Rest and Activity Modification: Temporary cessation of high-impact activities and incorporating low-impact alternatives, such as swimming or cycling, can allow the affected tissues to heal and reduce further irritation.

2. Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with shin splints.

3. Physical Therapy: Targeted stretching and strengthening exercises can improve lower limb flexibility, muscle endurance, and biomechanical alignment, addressing underlying factors contributing to shin splints.

4. Orthotic Support: Custom orthotics or supportive footwear designed o correct biomechanical abnormalities and provide cushioning and stability can help alleviate stress on the lower leg structures and prevent recurrence of shin splints.

5. Gradual Return to Activity: Once symptoms have subsided, gradually reintroducing physical activity with a structured training program can minimize the risk of recurrent shin splints while allowing for progressive adaptation and conditioning of the lower limbs.

Shin splints are a common and often frustrating lower leg injury that can hinder athletic performance and sideline individuals from their favorite activities. By understanding what cases shin splints, when shin splints hurt, what shin splints feel like, where shin splints are located, why shin splints occur and how to treat shin splints, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent and manage this condition effectively. Whether through rest, rehabilitation exercises, or biomechanical interventions, addressing shin splints promptly with the guidance of your podiatrist in Lakewood Co can facilitate a safe and successful return to pain-free activity. Remember, prioritizing lower limb health and proper training techniques are essential for long-term athletic success and injury prevention.


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