Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints are one of the most common injuries athletes, especially runners, have to deal with. Shin splints manifest as pain or swelling along the shin bone, or tibia, and can be extremely painful depending on how severe they are. They are caused by sudden, or excessive stress to the tibia, and the connective tissues that connect the various muscles of the leg to that bone. They are especially common in runners, new athletes, and those who play a sport on a hard surface that includes sudden stops and starts like basketball, tennis, football, soccer, and rugby. They are also very common in those who have just joined the military and are unused to the stress and strain of such an active lifestyle.
Fortunately, like achilles tendonitis, shin splints are a condition that typically heals on its own. That’s not to say there isn’t anything you can do to prevent them from occurring or lessen the recovery time, far from it. Read on to find out about the different ways you can prevent and treat shin splints, and what your favorite podiatrist can do to help.
Many people consider shin splints to just be a part of life when you’re starting a new running or other exercise program, but the reality is you can do an awful lot to prevent them. First and foremost, make sure you have on appropriately fitted shoes. Properly fitted shoes are the number one way to prevent foot and leg injuries during sports and other activities. Improperly fitted shoes are also one of the number one causes of long term injuries in both runners and other athletes. It’s important to have your athletic shoes be professionally fitted. Have someone that’s either a sport’s trainer or fitness expert give you a recommendation, or come see us for a more detailed fitting for an athletic shoe. We can make sure your shoes are properly fitted and going to help prevent any injuries.
However, if you have particularly flat feet, or just want to take some strain off your lower legs, arch support is a key factor, whether in the form of inserts or specially designed footwear. This helps keep the impact stress off your shin and its connective tissue (the key cause of shin splints) because the arch of the foot acts as a natural shock absorber when we walk, and is especially important when we run and jump.
If you’re already an active athlete, doing too much too soon is going to leave you with a whole host of aches and pains, and even more severe injuries if you aren’t extremely careful. Start small, find out exactly what your body can handle and increase as you go, also it’s important to Avoid running on uneven surface as that can lead to a possible injury. Dynamic stretching before a workout or other vigorous activity can also go a long way towards helping prevent shin splints.
Treating Shin Splints
If you’re already suffering from shin splints, you’re probably wondering what to do now. Fortunately, shin splints are relatively easy to take care of on your own. Simple self-care steps can usually take care of all but the most severe cases of shin splints in just a few days.
- Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort but, don’t give up on exercise for the duration. Activities that are low impact like cycling, swimming, and light walking are good ways to exercise the affected area without causing undue stress.
- Ice the affected area. Apply an ice-pack to shin to help relieve pain. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel or blanket.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to reduce pain.
When to See Us
If your pain is severe or go away within a few days, or persists even when you’re off your feet for an extended period of time, come see us as you may have a more serious condition like a stress fracture. Fortunately,we can treat all your sports-related injuries, so we can start working towards the healing process from the moment we complete your diagnosis. You can make an appointment online today.