Do your shins ache and throb following your daily run or after simply sprinting to catch a taxi? If so, you could be dealing with shin splints.
Up to 70 percent of runners will get shin splints, but you don’t have to be a runner to get them. There’s no denying that shin splints are painful and inconvenient, but with the right information, you can learn how to identify shin splint symptoms, how to treat shin splints, and how to prevent them in the first place.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints are acute pain in the shin(s) or lower leg(s). Shin splints are typically caused by jogging, running, sprinting, or jumping. When the shins experience repeated excessive force, this causes the muscles in the lower legs to swell. This swelling can put pressure on the bone, leading to pain and inflammation.
Shin Splints Symptoms
People with shin splints will likely experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Aching in the front part or inner part of the lower leg
- Pain that develops while exercising
- Pain on either side of the shin bone
- Muscle pain
- Mild swelling in the lower leg
- Numbness or weakness in the lower leg that may spread to the feet
When to See a Doctor for Shin Splints
If you experience any of these shin splints symptoms, see your doctor:
- Severe pain in the shin that occurs after an accident or fall
- Severe swelling in the shin
- If your shin feels hot to the touch
- Pain that occurs in your shin even at rest
Shin Splints Causes
These conditions can cause shin splints:
- Flat Feet: Flat feet are when the impact of a step makes your foot’s arch collapse, often referred to as overpronation. Overpronation can increase the impact on your shins when you’re jogging, running, sprinting, or jumping, leading to shin splints.
- Improperly Warming Up: Whether you rarely exercise or do it daily, a proper warm-up should always be part of your routine. Forgoing your warmup doesn’t give your muscles enough time to prepare for the impact of a workout.
- Weak Ankles, Hips, Or Core: Sometimes, people naturally have weak ankles, hips, or core muscles. This can be natural or caused by inactivity. In any case, these factors increase your risk of developing shin splints.
- Improper Shoes: No matter what activity you’re doing, your shoes should always provide adequate support to your feet (and the rest of your body).
- Bone Fractures: Sometimes shin splints occur as a stress reaction to a bone fracture in the lower leg.
How are shin splints diagnosed?
Most people are able to self-diagnose shin splints, but if you want a professional opinion your doctor will perform a physical exam. During the exam, they will ask you about the types of physical activities you participate in and how often.
Your doctor may prescribe diagnostic tests including imaging scans and X-rays if they suspect you have a fracture or another condition.
Do shin splints heal on their own?
If you’re dealing with shin splints, you’re likely wondering how long shin splints take to heal and if shin splints can heal on their own. While there is no exact way to tell how long your shin splints will take to go away, you can look out for certain signs.
Signs your shin splints have healed include:
- Your leg that was injured is as flexible and as strong as your other leg
- Any tender spots on your injured leg are no longer painful when pressed
- You can, jog, jump, and sprint without experiencing any pain in your legs
Shin Splints Treatment
In many cases, shin splints heal on their own. Sometimes, it may be necessary to seek medical attention and treatment. In most cases, shin splints are treated in the following ways:
- Rest And Elevate Your Legs: Your body needs time to teal. If you have shin splints, avoid jogging, running, sprinting, and jumping.
- Ice Your Shin(s): Shin splints can be painful, but icing your shins or applying a cold compress can ease the pain and reduce the swelling. We recommend icing your shin(s) for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours to two to three days. Repeat until the pain is gone.
- Take OTC Anti-inflammatory Painkillers: OTC anti-inflammatory painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Use Supportive Insoles: Shoe inserts and other insoles that provide added support can help those with flat arches reduce their chance of developing shin splints in the future.
- Surgery: Very rarely, shin splints are treated with surgery. If your shin splints are causing you severe pain and your symptoms have not subsided after months have passed, your doctor may recommend a fasciotomy. A fasciotomy is a procedure where your doctor will make small cuts in the fascia tissues surrounding your calf muscles, which helps reduce the pain caused by shin splints.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Taking these measures can help you avoid getting shin splints:
- Warm up before you exercise and stretch properly
- Wear well-fitting shoes that offer good support
- Use shock-absorbing insoles
- Increase your amount of exercise gradually
- Don’t exercise through any pain
- Avoid exercising on hard surfaces and uneven terrain
Request An Appointment At The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you would like to learn more about shin splints or need help managing your shin splints symptoms, contact us today.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.