What Are Shin Splints?

Many athletes have been there. They increase the amount of training they do or simply just overdo it, and suddenly they start feeling pain in their shins.

Your shin, or your tibia (the bone between your ankle and knee), is particularly vulnerable to injury, especially if your sport includes running, excessive starting and stopping, and repetitive lower leg movements.

Shin splints (tibial stress syndrome) occur when an athlete overworks the shin’s muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. The excessive force put on the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue causes the muscle surrounding the shin to swell. Thus, increasing the pressure against the bone and causing pain and inflammation.

Keep reading to learn more about shin splints, how to prevent them, and what you should do to treat them once they occur.

What Causes Shin Splints?

The excessive force that you place on your lower legs can cause your muscles to swell, increasing the pressure on your tibia. This pressure leads to pain and inflammation.

Those at risk of developing shin splints include those who:

  • Have flat feet or rigid arches
  • Have weak muscles in their thighs and glutes
  • Lack flexibility
  • Partake in improper training methods
  • Run downhill frequently
  • Run on uneven terrain
  • Run on hard surfaces (e.g., concrete)
  • Use inappropriate or worn-out shoes
  • Participate in sports or activities with abrupt starts and stops (e.g., tennis, basketball, downhill skiing)

Shin Splint Symptoms

Symptoms of shin splints include:

  • Pain in one or both your lower leg
  • Dull or sharp, aching pain towards the front of your shin (on either side of the tibia)
  • Pain when you touch your shins
  • Pain that worsens during and after exercise
  • Pain that gets better after resting
  • Swelling in the lower leg (typically mild)
  • Numbness and/or weakness in your feet
  • Tenderness along the inner part of your shin

How To Treat Shin Splints

Your goal is to reduce pain and swelling. To do so, you should:

  • Ice your shins several times a day for at least three days or until the pain has subsided
  • Take ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. to decrease swelling, which will help mediate the pain
  • Use arch supports and/or shock-absorbing insoles or orthotics
  • Work with a physical therapist that can help you strengthen the muscles around your shin and teach you therapies that can ease your pain
  • Decrease your activity (you may need to cease exercise for two to four weeks)
  • Try low impact activities (e.g., swimming and biking) if you feel no pain

How To Prevent Shin Splints

  • Exercise in moderation
  • Warm and stretch before your workout
  • Cool down and stretch after your workout
  • Ice your shins after exercise
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces
  • Wear the proper shoes
  • Cross-train by adding low impact exercises

When To See a Doctor

After treating your shin splints for about two to four weeks at home, you should see an improvement. However, if the pain persists even with icing and pain relievers, you should consider seeing a doctor.

Also, consider seeing a doctor if the swelling in your lower leg worsens and your skin is red and feels hot to the touch.

Your provider may take an x-ray or perform other tests to ensure you don’t have a stress fracture. They will most likely also determine if you’re suffering from other shin problems, like tendonitis or compartment syndrome.

Treat Your Shins at The Foot & Ankle Center

A podiatrist can offer relief if you’re suffering from shin splints. Your feet and ankles set the foundation for how healthy the rest of your gait will be. Without the proper mechanics, your shin splints may only continue to worsen over time.

At The Foot & Ankle Center, we can provide orthotics, physical therapy, and other tips and tricks to help rid yourself of shin splints once and for all!

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Are you in need of a same-day appointment? Give us a call at (314) 487-9300.