Everything You Need to Know About Shin Splints

Everything You Need to Know About Shin Splints

by Douglas Liantonio (SU)

Pain in the legs along the shinbone is defined as shin splints. The pain is localized between the knee and ankle and often follows exercise, particularly running as it can increase pressure on the shins. 

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, occurs when muscle, tissue, and tendons surrounding the shinbone (tibia) become inflamed and painful. This inflammation is located where the muscle attaches to the shinbone. 

If you have shin splints, you’ll experience pain on the inside of your lower leg. However, diagnosing shin splints can be tricky, since pain in the lower leg and the tenderness that occurs with shin splints, can also appear with other health issues. 

If you think you have shin splints, don’t ignore the pain. You’ll want to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis of the problem and treatment recommendations.

How Shin Splints Start

Shin splints occur as a result of weight-bearing exercises – specifically, it is the constant pounding of running, for example, that can trigger shin splints.

Shin splints are a stress disorder that affects bones, muscles, and the joints in the leg. The stress may be caused from excessive exercise, as mentioned above, but any moderate activity that results in repeated stress on the legs can be a factor. 

You may first notice tenderness in your shins. The tenderness and pain caused by shin splints can progress to a point that the activity must be discontinued. If you fail to stop the activity causing the stress, your legs will not be able to heal on their own. Your muscles will continue to swell, increasing the pressure on the shinbone, exacerbating the painful condition.

Shin splints can also develop in response to fractures in the bone. Tiny, hairline fractures that occur due to constant pounding can result in the symptoms of shin splints. Again, your body may be able to repair itself, given adequate time to rest. Failure to allow the bones to heal on its own, a more serious fracture will occur like a complete or stress fracture.

Who’s at Risk?

There are a number of factors that will place you at risk for contracting shin splints.

Of course, as mentioned above, if you are an avid runner or engage in an activity that creates a continual pounding on the legs, then you’re at risk of developing the shin splints when you overdo it.

Where you run can also be a factor. Avoid running on uneven or slanted terrain and be sure to wear the right type of shoes that are designed for the exercise you’re doing. When running shoes become worn, replace them. 

Other risk factors include:

·      Muscle weakness in the larger leg muscles (thighs and buttocks) that support the lower legs

·      A lack of flexibility

·      Flat feet since they don’t absorb much of the stress created by walking or running, which can put additional stress on the lower leg muscles

Strength training and stretching exercises can help with developing core strength and flexibility to help ward off shin splints. Proper footwear can also help.

Shin splints are painful, but the condition can be addressed. Seek a medical diagnosis and then follow up with the treatment plan laid out by your doctor.

If you have concerns about shin splints, we suggest you contact The Brooks Clinic for an appointment. We offer two convenient locations in Oklahoma where you can be seen, and your condition properly diagnosed. Call us at (405) 400-0877 to schedule your appointment or use our convenient online appointment request form.