Shin splints or medial tibial syndrome refers to the throbbing ache felt along the shin bone in the lower leg. It often resolves on its own without any medical intervention. Severe forms of this condition may have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day activities. Shin splints are considered to be indicators of some underlying problem rather than a medical condition on its own. They point to overuse of muscles that then become swollen and irritated. They may also be a symptom of hairline fractures in the lower leg bones.
Therefore, it is important that you get yourself checked out by the doctor once you start experiencing pain. The longer it takes to get to the doctor, the more prolonged your pain will be. Shin splints, if left untreated, can at times get progressively worse to the point where you end up being bedridden. It can also lead to other health complications. Thus, it is important that you get the medical attention you need right away.
Shin splints are one of the most common forms of injuries in runners, particularly after increasing the intensity of their workout. This throbbing pain is also felt while running on hard surfaces. Dancers and people involved in activities like squash, tennis, and basketball also suffer from this throbbing pain. It is important that before taking part in any physical activity you ensure that you have the right gear and the right support for your feet. This is to ensure that your weight is evenly distributed and that your tibia/shin bone does not come under undue stress. If you have recently taken up running, it is important that you pace yourself and try not to overdo it. Do not increase your running pace suddenly; instead, opt for a gradual increase. This is important because if you were to suddenly increase your pace and you are just a beginner, your body will be overstressed and the chances are extremely high that you will develop shin splints.
Ballet dancers and other dancers who regularly dance often suffer from shin splints. However, this is more often due to poor pose. An imbalance causes these dancers to place more stress on their tibia, thereby leading to shin splints. Before dancing, make sure that you have optimal foot support, and that the movements are correct as well as your pose. Remember, it only takes one bad spill to cause shin splints.
What are the main causes of shin splints?
There are two main causes of shin splints:
- Excessive pressure applied to the muscles of the lower legs
- A sudden, heavy impact on the muscles. This can often happen with sudden spills or even with accidents. Your body and your muscles are overly stressed because of the sudden impact. This sudden impact may cause you to develop shin splints.
A dull pain in front of the lower leg is the most common symptom of this condition. If the stress continues, the pain may become severe and affect the regular workouts of an athlete. Many people have this constant pain, while others may only experience pain during exercise. The location of pain depends on the actual cause of shin splints.
If the muscles are swollen, the feet may feel numb as the muscles irritate the nerves. There may also be tenderness in the inner part of the lower leg. Swelling is also common in the lower leg. Giving adequate rest to the leg is the best possible treatment for this condition. Rest allows the body to heal the underlying problem.
It is crucial that you give your leg enough time to heal. Depending on the severity of the shin splints, the healing process could take weeks. You need to be off your legs and give your shin splint a chance to heal. The more you use your affected leg, the more strain you are going to cause to your already stressed tibia, leading to the surrounding muscles being further inflamed. Therefore, it is important that you get adequate rest and allow your body to recover from shin splints.
Some of the simple home remedies that may be of help are:
- Cold compress – An ice compress on the affected area helps reduce pain and inflammation. One suggestion would be to keep a cold compress on the affected area for 10 minutes or so, at least until the skin starts to feel numb. This should assist in lessening the inflammation.
- Medications – Anti-inflammatory medications are ideal to alleviate pain and swelling in the leg. Your doctor can prescribe these medications; however, before they prescribe something, ensure that you inform them of any drug allergies you may have. Allergic reactions caused by certain medications can be dangerous.
- Physical therapy – Physical therapy helps to strengthen the muscles of the legs. There are various exercises that you can use to increase the strength of your lower body. Performing these exercises can help develop the strength needed in your lower body to withstand stress and additional body weight better. These exercises can also prevent the shin splints from recurring.
- Motion exercises – A range of motion exercises may be recommended by the doctor to alleviate pain. Consult your doctor as soon as you begin to experience the symptoms of shin splints. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication and motion exercises.
- Shoes with arch support – This footwear is ideal for people with flat feet. Having flat feet can cause pressure on your tibia. Thus, those with flat feet are at an increased risk of developing shin splints more often than others. Consult a doctor or specialist to help determine if you require special shoes for additional support. Wearing the appropriate shoes can also help prevent the recurrence of shin splints.
- Keeping the leg in a raised position – This position reduces swelling in the leg. If you have shin splints and are beginning to experience sharp bouts of pain, it is important that you keep your legs in a raised position. Doing so will help reduce inflammation, leading to a faster recovery time. It is important that you keep off the affected area and cause no further injury or strain. Take some time to rest and let your body heal until the doctor confirms that your tibia is back to normal. After this, you may resume your normal routine.
These are some of the ways in which you can develop shin splints. Remember, it is important that you consult a doctor as soon as you begin to experience the symptoms of shin splints. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can be back on your feet again.
Anti-inflammatory medications and adequate rest are often the methods used for the treatment of shin splints. If your shin splints are the result of strenuous physical activity, ensure that you don’t overdo it and cause further stress and pain.