It’s a problem many athletes face—they move up to a more intense workout level and suddenly start experiencing pain. While exercise in general is good for you, it can also lead to the body responding in ways you don’t expect. When pain occurs in your legs after an increase in physical activity, you may be suffering from shin splints. It’s important to discuss this condition with an experienced podiatrist who can diagnose your specific issue and come up with a treatment plan to get you back to your normal athletic routine.
Understanding Shin Splints
A shin splint, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is inflammation of the tendons, muscles, and tissue around your tibia or “shin bone” in the front area of your lower leg. This condition can develop after any type of repetitive activity, hard workouts, and/or participating in sports.
A common athletic injury, a shin splint typically occurs in the shin between the knee and ankle on either leg, with pain flaring in the areas where the inflamed muscle meets a bone or tendon. Pain from a shin splint can be a dull throb or a sharp stabbing sensation, and the leg is often tender to the touch. The pain tends to recede with rest, stretching, or using ice packs on the tender location.
Common Causes of Shin Splints
Overworking the leg muscle is the main reason a shin splint develops. Unlike a leg fracture that usually happens instantaneously, shin splints occur over time from repeated movements your muscles and bones aren’t used to. But there are other causes of shin splints, including:
- Changes to exercise routines such as jogging longer and/or switching to more rugged terrain with uphill areas
- Repetitive motions, particularly from distance running
- Using improper or worn-out footwear that doesn’t provide proper support during exercise
Shin splints are of particular concern for young athletes who are trying to increase stamina by upping the difficulty level of their exercises. However, they can be a problem for people of any age who are just starting an exercise regimen and overexert themselves.
Patients who see a podiatrist for shin splints are often dancers, runners, or people engaging in prolonged physical activity that is out of the norm such as attending military boot camp or engaging in a strenuous weight loss course.
What to Do if You Have Shin Splint Pain
If you experience shin splint symptoms, it is critical to meet with a podiatrist to rule out other possible causes of pain. In some cases, you may be dealing with:
- Chronic exertional compartment syndrome causing muscle pain that can be mistaken for a shin splint
- Stress fractures
- Tendinitis (inflamed tendons rubbing against bone)
Following a shin splint diagnosis, you can work with a podiatrist to come up with a wellness plan tailored to your specific needs. This plan could involve:
- Doing at-home care such as resting and icing the painful area
- Switching to lower impact sports with less chance for inflammation
- Using customized orthotics to provide the support necessary to reduce inflammation and pain during and after athletic activity
- Doing flexibility exercises to reduce muscle pain in the legs
- Gradually increasing the difficulty of exercise routines over time
- Using medications to treat inflammation and pain
- Using a compression band to reduce swelling in the affected shin
- Returning to your normal exercise routine gradually to avoid additional inflammation
Contact an Idaho Podiatrist About Shin Splints
If you have shin splints and want to return to running or playing sports again, Canyon Foot & Ankle would like to help. Call our Burley number at 208-678-2727 or Twin Falls at 208-733-0436. If you’d rather request an appointment, contact us online.