Both shin splints and stress fractures are regarded as overuse injuries as a result of overtraining or over exercising. Even though both may have the same symptoms, stress fractures are more severe than shin splints. Thus, it is better that you learn the difference between the two.
Shin splints vs. Stress Fractures
Shin splints are tears that occur in the lower leg or shin bone. It gives rise to an intense, shooting pain that appears while running, but tends to disappear when you rest or change into low impact exercises. You will not feel any pain while you walk, stretch your legs, or climb stairs. It is only felt during high impact exercises or when you overtrain yourself.
On the other hand, stress fractures are a result of an actual break in the bones of your lower leg. If you get a stress fracture, it causes a very severe pain in the lower third of your shin bone, which is associated with redness and swelling on the injured area. The pain exacerbates if you press on your shin bone and does not reduce even if you stop the activity or exercise. It does not go away even after resting. It is a continuous severe aching pain. Light activities like walking and climbing the stairs can also cause the pain.
However, if you have got a shin splint and did not deal with it correctly, it can get worse with time and will eventually result in a stress fracture. Therefore, without the proper prevention and management of shin splints, the continuous stress on the bones will give rise to a stress fracture.
If your injury is a shin splint, then you should make gradual changes in your exercise progression. Never do so much too quickly. Always stick to the 10% rule where you increase no more than 10% of the exercises per week. A slow gradual increase in the progression of your activities or exercises is the best way.
Prevention and Treatment
Shin splints are easy to prevent and treat, so deal with it correctly. Do not let it drag on because it will lead to a stress fracture. Therefore, it is wise that you take some preventive measures to avoid shin splints in the first place and to easily cure the shin splints without complicating them.
Stress fractures are a lot more serious than shin splints. Your doctor will order an X-ray of your lower legs to see if there is a fracture in your legs. If the doctor does not see a fracture on your X-ray, it doesn’t mean that you do not have a fracture. Your doctor will ask you to visit again after several weeks to do a repeat X-ray of you lower legs. If it shows bone healing, then it is clear that you have suffered a stress fracture.
If you are having a stress fracture, you should rest for at least 6 to 8 weeks, but you can continue to do some low-impact exercises like walking and swimming. Once the pain goes off completely, you can get on your track again, but make sure that you start off slowly and increase your distance and intensity gradually. More than anything, active rest is the most important thing because if you do not rest adequately, your body will not get enough time to heal the fracture.