Committed athletes and workout buffs like to think that nothing can prevent them from being active. However, at some point, the inevitable happens and injury occurs, requiring days, weeks, or even months of rest by the athlete. One of the most common injuries athletes experience is shin splints. Shin splints can be avoided with the right techniques but often times it takes experiencing shin splints in order to be able to avoid them in the future.
What makes shin splints such a threatening condition that most athletes want to avoid it at all costs? The answer is simple – pain. Shin splints cause nagging and stabbing pain in the front of the leg that is difficult to ignore, especially when it makes people stop exercising and ruins their training results. Although the condition is fairly common, most people still don’t know how to approach and resolve it. Luckily, we are here to tell you everything about shin splints causes, treatments, and prevention.
What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints are also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). The term is used to describe pain in the front of the lower leg and inside of the lower leg, next to the shin bone (tibia). The pain is often persistent and worsens as athletes intensify the workout. The more stress is put on the leg, the more pain a person endures. Along with stopping the training and going through the full recovery process, the consequences of shin splints can lead to even more severe injuries.
Here are some of the most common shin splints symptoms:
- A dull ache in the front of the lower leg
- Pain that worsens during the exercise
- Pain on both sides of the shin bone
- Muscle pain in the leg
- Tenderness or soreness in the lower leg
- Swelling in the lower leg
- Numbness and weakness in the feet
If any of these shin splints symptoms persist after treatments and become worse even when you’re resting, contact your doctor. Severe pain after an injury or visibly swollen leg can be a sign of a critical condition that requires immediate action.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints causes are many, but most of them come from the excessive force put on the shin bone and surrounding tissues. The pressure on the bone leads to muscle swelling, inflammation, and pain. Simply put, overuse causes shin splints in runners, gymnasts, dancers, military recruits, and overall, everyone who enjoys regular exercising. Common shin splints causes go as it follows:
- Suddenly increasing intensity and time of training
- Excessive running, particularly on hills and greater distances
- Practicing sports with frequent stops and starts such as dancing and basketball
You’re also at a higher risk of developing shin splints if you:
- Have flat feet or rigid foot arches
- Suffer from muscle weakness in the thighs or buttocks and lack flexibility
- Don’t follow proper training techniques
- Work out on hard surfaces
- Wear worn-out shoes or any other footwear that doesn’t provide enough support
All these things cause stress on the tibia and surrounding muscles, resulting in inflammation and pain. If your muscles are not strong enough to adapt to training changes and they become tired and fatigued, you are more likely to develop shin splints.
Shin Splints Treatment
Doctors run several tests to diagnose shin splints. They look at how a person walks and examine the lower leg, ankle, and foot to determine the cause of pain and inflammation. If doctors are concerned, they might order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or bone scan. When tests turn out to be positive, you’ll be instructed to take certain treatments.
To relieve your symptoms, doctors might recommend the following:
- Rest. Yes, we know it’s hard to avoid workouts, but exercising with an injury can only make things worse. Give your bones and muscles time to heal and take things slowly. A break from sports, running, and other physical activities will be highly beneficial for your legs.
- Cold Compress. Apply a cold compress to your shins every 10 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day. Ice will help with the swelling and pain, especially if you’re struggling with inflammation.
- Pain Killers. Your doctor may prescribe drugs to ease the pain and swelling. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help a lot.
- Supplements. Vitamin D, magnesium, and other similar supplements can also help your body heal and speed up the recovery process.
- Support to Your Feet. Get yourself a supportive pair of shoes to relieve some stress on the feet. Also, use shoe inserts as they can relieve pain from shin splints.
- Physical Therapy. If you’re an athlete eager to get back to training, physical therapy can be very helpful. Physical therapists make customized plans for each patient, so they can recover faster and get back out there quickly. Don’t know any reliable physical therapist near your location? Give us a call! Desert Edge PT treats everything from muscle spasms to shin splints.
- Surgery. Although surgery is rarely used for treating shin splints, doctors might recommend it in the most severe cases. The procedure is called fasciotomy and relieves pain caused by shin splints quite successfully.
Tips for Shin Splints Prevention
- We can’t stress enough how important it is to return to exercising slowly. It’s essential to go slower at first to avoid muscle and bone overuse. Don’t rush to your previous routine but rather start with shorter and less intense workouts.
- Athletes with shin splints should wait to heal completely before returning to exercise. If you already have a condition, be patient and wait to achieve two pain-free weeks before you go out there again.
- Avoid working out on hard and uneven surfaces, and always wear shoes with good support and padding. Shock-absorbing insoles can help you relieve stress on your lower leg.
- Try adding low-impact exercises in between your regular workouts, even when you heal completely. You should allow your muscles to relax and rest. Fatigued and overused muscles will only lead to an injury.
- Always listen to your body. If you feel pain, don’t push yourself over the limit. Pain is a signal our body sends to warn us about the potential issue in the organism. You should listen to it. Increasing the exercise intensity gradually takes more time, but it will keep your body safe from injuries.
- Lastly, your coach or physical therapist might recommend exercises to prevent shin splints. These are usually some low-intensity workouts with a lot of stretching. Special exercises can help you strengthen the muscles surrounding the tibia, which will prevent developing further problems.
Physical Therapy Can Help With Shin Splints
If you already tried everything mentioned above and can see the end of your problem, consider physical therapy. A physical therapist can aid in the treatment of shin splints by giving you a professional assessment of the issue and options for resolving it. Your body might need an individualized program that includes massages, exercises, balance training, electrical therapy, and other treatments to decrease the pain and reduce injury. Only a professional can provide this and help you feel relief from shin splints at last.
Desert Edge PT specializes in all the common ailments and injuries you can think of. We help athletes find their way back to an active lifestyle after injuries, surgeries, and many other life situations. To schedule a free consultation and assessment, get in touch with one of our experts. We are here to provide the support you need!
published on Friday, February 19th, 2021