What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is pain around the tibia or shinbone due to inflammation of the tendons, muscles and bone tissue. It occurs because of vigorous physical activity such as with exercise or sports.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Common causes of shin splints are overuse from repetitive sports activities or a sudden change in the level of physical activity. Flat feet or rigid foot arches and the use of inappropriate or worn-out footwear while exercising may increase your risk of developing shin splints. Runners, military recruits and dancers are at a higher risk of developing shin splints.
What are the Symptoms of Shin Splints?
Common symptoms include pain in the front side of the lower leg, which can be sharp or dull, throbbing or sore to the touch. Pain may also be associated with mild swelling.
How are Shin Splints diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose the condition through physical examination of the lower leg and may order imaging tests to rule out other problems.
What are the Treatment Options for Shin Splints?
Treatment for shin splints consists of non-surgical procedures including:
- Rest: Ensure that you take adequate rest and avoid activities that cause pain. You can instead perform low-impact exercises, such as swimming or stationary bicycling.
- Medication: Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling.
- Ice: Apply ice packs wrapped in a cloth on the affected area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for several days. Never place ice directly over the skin.
- Compression: Wrap your leg in an elastic bandage to reduce swelling.
- Flexibility exercises: Perform stretching exercises to reduce pain and improve muscle strength.
- Supportive shoes: Wear shoes that provide good cushioning and support the feet as they help reduce stress on the shinbone.
- Orthotics: Shoe inserts may be helpful.
Surgical treatment is an option considered only in very severe cases when conservative methods fail to relieve the pain.
How can you Prevent Shin Splints?
Shin splints can be prevented by following these measures:
- Wear well-fitting athletic shoes with good support.
- Warm up and stretch the leg muscles before starting any vigorous activities.
- Start any new activity slowly and progress gradually by increasing the duration and frequency of the exercise regimen.