What are Shin Splints?
Also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), shin splints refer to pain along the tibia or shinbone. The shinbone is the larger bone of the lower leg, which connects to the knee and ankle joints.
Shin splints are the most common cause of shin pain. As a typical overuse injury, it can result in an inability to handle effort on the affected lower leg. They can also prevent you from running, exercising, and in more severe cases, even standing for long periods of time.
Shin splints are especially common in:
- Athletes who have recently changed their exercise routine
- People with flat feet or high arches
- People who wear poor-fitting shoes or no shoes at all when exercising
- People with osteoporosis
- Military recruits
Are Shin Splints Serious?
While they can be extremely painful, most shin splints are not serious. However, they can be uncomfortable to the point of preventing you from enjoying your usual physical activities.
For some people, it can be hard to get by without their favorite exercise for long periods of time. In this case, developing shin splints may disrupt their routine and damage their mental health.
How Do They Develop?
Shin splints develop from a combined overuse of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bone tissue. The culprit is repeated stress from continuous activity, especially high-impact activities like jumping and running.
The stress can result in uncomfortable tugs and pulls that eventually irritate, inflame, and weaken those tissues. When you do not give the shinbone enough time to heal, your shin splints can evolve into stress fractures – known as tiny cracks in the shinbone.
What are the Symptoms Associated With Them?
Shin splints mostly involve lower leg pain that varies in duration and intensity. However, there are different ways to describe such pain, including:
- Tenderness and soreness
- Mild swelling to the touch
- Tightness around the shin area
- A dull pain, similar to what is popularly known as “growing pains”
- Sharp pain on the surface of the shinbone
This pain will typically occur along the edge of the bone. It may cease when you stop exercising, or it can be continuous and get worse after exercise. It may also come and go indefinitely.
How Do You Treat Shin Splints?
Fortunately, shin splints are easily treatable. In most cases, rest is the most encouraged form of rehabilitation, as it gives the bone and surrounding tissues plenty of healing time.
There is a range of treatment options available, which include:
- Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain.
- Apply a cold compress to your shins every 10 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day, for a few days. Ice helps relieve the swelling and pain of shin splints.
- Taking breaks from high-intensity exercises. If possible, avoid the exercise that caused your shin splints for a couple of weeks or longer. This will give your muscles a better chance of recovering.
- Once you get back to exercising, increase your activity level slowly to prevent shin splints from returning.
- Wearing appropriate, supportive shoes when exercising to prevent poor weight distribution.
- Wearing shoe inserts, known as custom orthotics. Orthotics support your arches and reduce misalignment in foot structure, giving your lower legs a break.
- Warming up before and stretching after exercising, so as to improve the range of motion in your joints and prevent injury.
The more committed you are to the recovery process, the sooner you will be returning to your favorite activities.
How Long Do Shin Splints Last?
The general answer is: it depends.
Most people recover after taking some much-needed time off from their physical exercises. That period could range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the shin splints.
Patients have reported a time frame of 3 to 4 weeks for full recovery. However, in case the shin splints have progressed to stress fractures, recovery time might be even longer, potentially reaching 6 to 8 weeks.
For this reason, it is recommended that you consult our doctor at your earliest convenience.
When Should You Schedule an Appointment?
Consult Dr. DePalma immediately if:
- Rest, ice, and painkillers do not ease your shin pain.
- Your legs are severely swollen and red, which could be a sign of infection.
- Your shin pain does not go away after a few weeks of rest.
- You suspect shin splints have evolved to stress fractures.
- The pain is not getting worse but is also not getting better.
That said, not two shin splints are alike. Different causes also mean different courses of treatment, which is why you should consult an experienced podiatrist like Dr. DePalma for the most appropriate solution.
Contact Us for the Best Shin Splints Treatment in Burlington County
If you or a loved one is struggling with shin splints, count on Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates, Inc. to recommend treatments that will ensure the most speedy recovery for your case.
We encourage you to seek treatment for shin splints as soon as possible, so you can have a higher chance of getting back on your feet in no time. Just give us a call at (609) 714-0052, or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment with Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates today.
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Medford, NJ 08055
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