Shin splints are fairly common among casual fitness enthusiasts as well as professional athletes. You usually feel the discomfort in your legs either during your workout or immediately afterward. Left untreated, they can cause you pain for several days or even weeks. A number of treatments are available, and shin splints are easily preventable with proper care of your legs and feet. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall will also help you avoid common injuries. Consult your doctor for more information.
Here are seven common questions about shin splints:
1) What are shin splints?
A shin splint is a pain in the front of the lower leg or tibia (shin) bone. They can occur during running, walking, dancing, or any other high-impact exercise. Your legs can also start hurting after you have finished working out, and you may experience some leg swelling. Leg bones, tendons, and muscles are all affected by overwork or increased activity.
2) What are the causes?
Those irritated and swollen muscles can cause shin splints, especially in someone new to vigorous exercise. Sudden changes in routine or excessive leg strain will likely lead to shin splints. Weak hips or core muscles can also contribute to the condition, as can high arches or over-pronation of the feet.
3) Who suffers from shin splints?
Avid runners frequently complain about them. However, shin splints are extremely common, and anyone can experience them, from novice exercisers to professional athletes. Dancers and skaters of all levels are at risk, as well.
4) How are shin splints diagnosed?
A physician can determine, from conducting an exam or from consulting a patient’s medical history, whether the patient has shin splints. They are commonly confused with stress fractures, which also cause lower leg pain and are more serious. An X-ray can confirm whether a stress fracture is causing your pain.
5) What are the treatments for shin splints?
The decision to treat them usually depends on whether the pain becomes chronic. Stretching your leg muscles after working out may help if they are inflamed. Many times, they heal on their own and don’t require any professional treatment.
Common remedies include:
- Resting your legs for up to one week, if necessary. In the meantime, consider doing some cross-training activities, such as cycling or swimming, that are low impact and won’t worsen your leg pain.
- Applying ice to the affected area, three to four times a day as needed, for 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Taking ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
- Wearing orthotics can help if you have flat arches (over-pronation).
- Making shoe modifications, replacing worn out sneakers with a pair that fits properly and offers the most support. Dancing shoes and skates should be supportive and in good shape.
6) Can shin splints lead to other medical problems?
A common misperception is that shin splints can lead to stress fractures. Shin splints themselves do not cause stress fractures. Rather, people tend to confuse the two conditions because of the symptoms they share. The most reliable way to confirm a stress fracture is with an X-ray.
7) How do you prevent shin splints?
- Don’t push it! Be aware of your limitations when starting a new fitness program.
- If you run outdoors, stick to smooth, straight paths. Avoid hills and rough ground.
- Wear proper footwear to avoid overworking your legs.
- Wear shock absorbing insoles in your shoes.
- Improve your core by incorporating strength training, to lessen your chances of injury.
Our foot and ankle surgeons are trained and Board Certified, to better serve you. Do you have more questions or concerns about shin splints? Contact us to receive more information or to schedule an appointment with our office.