Shin splints are pains occurring in the lower leg and are a trial for athletes of many sorts, from runners to dancers. These pains that appear below the knee can develop into serious injuries if left unaddressed, whether they are:
• Appearing on the inner part of the leg
• Appearing on anterior
• Occurring on the outer part
This condition is more formally referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome and can arise due to a variety of factors.
How to Identify Them
Because the term “shin splint” is used as a bit of a catch-all for lower leg pain, other conditions can be mistaken for shin splints. Stress fractures might be the real culprit if pressure along the shin produces a particular point of sharp pain. If this symptom occurs, a bone scan will provide a definite diagnosis. Another sign is if a night’s rest results in reduced pain. While a stress fracture is eased by rest, the pain of shin splints tends to worsen with the tightening of soft tissue overnight.
Compartment syndrome might be the actual culprit if the pain is accompanied by muscle weakness and uncommon nerve sensations. It occurs on the leg’s anterior side, when muscles swell and create pressure. For this diagnosis, the pressure is measured, and is sometimes treated with surgical decompression.
What They Are
Describing the injuries that are often mistaken for this condition is easier than defining this injury. Sports scientists lack a consensus on the precise definition of shin splints.
The most common thoughts include inflamed periostium, which is a narrow layer of tissue wrapping around the shin bone. Or they could be minute tears in the muscle pulling away from the bone, or a more simple muscle inflammation. Whether the actual definition is a combination of these conditions or something else yet to be found. Experts do agree on how shin splints are caused and how to treat them.
What Causes Them
These pains develop over a length of time when too much stress is placed upon the joints, muscles, and bones of the lower leg. This stress leads to inflammation that causes generalized pain in the lower leg. The most common cause is an abrupt increase in the workout routine, whether in duration, frequency, or intensity.
Another is switching the surface type on which the exercise takes place. This could be a switch from dirt to concrete, or from flat surfaces to inclines. Hills and hard surfaces place different, more intense stresses on the legs. The feet can also be a contributing factor, either in shape, as in rigid arches or flat feet, or in shoes. Worn down shoes do not sufficiently absorb the shocks of exercise, and they tend to have flattened arch supports.
Rest is one of the most important elements of shin splint treatment, as is the use of ice to reduce swelling and pain. Anti-inflammatories can also assist in swelling reduction to ease the pain. But these should be used sparingly, unless a doctor advises otherwise because of potential side effects. A doctor can also recommend range-of-motion exercises, as well as physical therapy to gradually increase strength. A neoprene sleeve can be used for warmth and support, and flat feet can find relief with arch supports in the shoes.
Signs that Exercise Can Be Resumed
Shin splints can lead to permanent injury if ignored or subjected to exercise before they are fully healed. It is important to verify full healing by means of a few signs:
* Injured and healthy legs feel equally strong
* Injured and healthy legs feel equally flexible
* Jumping, sprinting, and jogging can be performed without pain
* X-rays appear normal
This process takes varying lengths of time. A common time frame for healing is from three to six months.