The term Shin Splints refers to pain in the shins due to INFLAMMATION of part of the Tibia (shin bone). The pain is brought on by strenuous activity, more commonly in stop-start sports such as squash, tennis or netball. Running too much on hard surfaces is also a common cause of shin splints.
Pain usually starts early during exercise, calms down and then returns again later on. The pain can prevent participation in the activity altogether.
What do Shin Splints feel like?
Shin Splints can be confused with both compartment syndrome and stress fracture of the tibia.
- Dull, achy pain along the inner part of the lower leg
- Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg
- Moderate swelling in the lower leg
- Feet may feel numb and weak, because swollen muscles irritate the nerves
What causes Shin Splints?
The main cause of shin splints is too much force on the shin bone and surrounding tissues. This excessive force can be caused by:
- Running downhill or on uneven terrain
- Running with inappropriate shoes, (even correct shoes than have worn out)
- Poor foot biomechanics
- Tight calf muscles
- Taking part in sports that include bursts of speed and sudden stops
- Increase in activity or intensity
What is the treatment for Shin Splints?
Treatment will depend on the cause of your shin splints, however rest from aggravating activities will almost certainly be advised. Raising the leg and applying an ice pack to the affected area can help reduce the swelling and pain.
When to do exercise again
In most cases, the individual can return to normal physical activity within two weeks, unless the doctor or physical therapist says otherwise. Ideally, you should start slowly and gradually build up your speed and intensity. Make sure you are warmed up before exercise.
Take home message:
Whatever you do – don’t try to “run through the pain”. There may be damage to the bone and/or surround tissue. Forcing your way through the pain may worsen the injury, making it more intense and prolong recovery.
Shin splints can lead to stress fractures of the tibia so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis and also establish the cause of your shin splints. If it is due to running technique, poor foot biomechanics or old trainers this must be corrected or the pain will keep returning even after rest.