What are shin splints, and how is it treated?
The most common injury to the shin is shin splints.
Other injuries to the shin can include stress fractures to the tibia bone and chronic exertional compartment syndrome. It is important to get a proper diagnosis for any shin pain so that treatment can be carried out effectively.
At OrthoNeuro in Columbus, OH, we provide sports medicine care, ranging from injury prevention to injury treatment and rehabilitation for youths, high school and college students, and professional athletes. If you require the skills of a sports medicine physician, call one of our offices today!
Shin splints are known medically as medial tibial stress syndrome. The term refers to pain along the shin bone (tibia) in the lower leg and is one of the most common lower extremity injuries among athletes and active people. The pain is due to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue.
Shin splints develop after repetitive athletic activities or a change in athletic routine or intensity. This condition is caused by the inflammation of one or more of the muscles, tendons, or tissues around the tibia.
Risk factors for shin splints include having flat feet, as well as working out with improper or worn-out footwear.
Shin splints are associated with either sharp or dull shin pain and sometimes mild swelling. However, there could be other reasons for shin pain, including stress fractures and chronic exertional compartment syndrome.
Shin splints usually cause pain in the lower third of the tibia, not the entire bone, and stress effects are stress fractures are point tender – shin splints are usually more dispersed. Chronic compartment syndrome is also associated with tightness in the calf and numbness.
As shin splints progress, the pain can commence earlier into the activity and after doing less. The pain will also extend for a longer period of time after the activity is over.
Your physician will begin by considering the history of your symptoms. Then your physician may perform a physical examination.
Your shin bone will be examined first. The physician may also check your walking gait, strength, and flexibility.
You may also have an x-ray taken of the shin to look for stress fractures. If the x-ray shows no sign of a stress fracture, then your doctor may request that an MRI scan be done.
If your physician suspects exertional compartment syndrome, they will perform compartment pressure testing before and after exercise.
Shin splints are categorized as repetitive strain injuries and, therefore, rarely require surgery and can be managed with non-surgical treatment options.
At OrthoNeuro, these non-surgical options to treat shin splints can include:
Orthotics and shoe inserts
You can also ease your symptoms by resting and using ice packs. Doing this can help reduce pain and swelling. Ice packs can be placed on the shin for 15-20 minutes several times a day. Be careful not to place the ice pack directly onto the skin.
Another effective way to treat shin splints is to perform flexibility exercises, such as stretching.
Shin splints are a common injury that can cause pain and swelling. As other shin problems have similar symptoms, getting a proper diagnosis is essential. Shin splints can almost always be treated through non-surgical methods.
Patients who are experiencing the symptoms of shin splints should not delay in getting a proper diagnosis. The decision of what treatments are best for you will be determined by what you and your OrthoNeuro specialist feel are best.
If you have been suffering the symptoms of shin splints, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Foot and Ankle Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. Best of all, most patients can be seen within 24 hours of making an appointment.
Medically reviewed by
B. Rodney Comisar, MD, FAAOS
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Orthopedic Hand & Elbow Surgeon
Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon
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