What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints happen when there is pain and swelling in the front of the lower legs. The pain is usually made worse by repetitive activities. The inflammation in the shin results from the repeated pull of a muscle in the leg from the shin bone.
Contributing causes to shin splints are flat feet, calf tightness, improper training techniques, worn out or improper shoes/sneakers, as well as running or walking on uneven surfaces.
Symptoms of Shin Splints
Shin splints cause dull, aching pain in the front of the lower leg. Some people feel it only during exercise; others, when they've stopped exercising. Sometimes, the pain is constant.
Depending on the exact cause, the pain may be located along either side of the shinbone or in the muscles. The area may be painful to the touch. Swollen muscles can sometimes irritate the nerves in the feet, causing them to feel weak or numb.
Diagnosis of Shin Splints
To diagnose shin splints, your foot and ankle doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. He or she may want to see you run to look for problems. You may also need X-rays or bone scans to look for fractures. Other tests are sometimes necessary.
Treatment of Shin Splints
Shin splints usually occur to both legs and can be alleviated by rest. Here are some more ways to treat shin splints:
- Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.
- Icing the shin to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days, or until the pain is gone.
- A change in training habits, stretching exercises, and properly fitted shoes can also help.
- A foot and ankle surgeon can treat the condition, recommend proper shoe gear, and evaluate whether orthotics are needed. If not treated, shin splints may eventually result in a stress fracture of the shin bone.
There's no way to say exactly when shin splints will go away. It depends on what's causing them. People also heal at different rates; three to six months is not unusual.
The most important thing is not to rush back into your sport. If you start exercising before your shin splints have healed, you may hurt yourself permanently.
Remember, any type of foot or ankle pain is never normal. A foot and ankle doctor can examine your feet and give you the best course of action.
Please call (626) 447-2184 (Arcadia) or (818) 408-2800 (San Fernando) to speak to a foot and ankle specialist about your foot and/or ankle needs.