What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints are inflammation of muscles, tendons and bone tissue around the shin bone, or tibia. Another term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome. A 2012 meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine determined that this is the most common injury for runners.
Shin splints cause pain along the front of the tibia, usually along the inner side. Early on, the pain may be brought on by exercise and then stop when at rest. As the condition progresses, it can cause continuous pain and may lead to stress fractures.
Repetitive stress causes shin splints. Running is one of the most common causes of shin splints. While running, the foot striking the ground creates a force that is three to four times that of walking. Shin splints often happen when runners increase their training volume or intensity.
A doctor will diagnose shin splints by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. X-rays can rule out other bone problems such as tibial fractures, while other imaging studies can help detect irritation in the soft tissue of the muscles and tendons around the tibia.
Treatment and Prevention
Surgery is almost always unnecessary for shin splints; they can generally be treated by self-care. This means:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
To prevent shin splints:
- Change running shoes after 250 miles
- Consider orthotic shoe inserts
- Increase training volume or intensity gradually
- Run with proper form and minimize the impact on the heel
- Strengthen the leg muscles with resistance exercises
- Wear proper footwear
Shin pain may also be caused by stress fractures of the tibia or exercise induced compartment syndrome, a painful condition caused by increased blood flow during exercise. See a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen after treatment, or if they interfere with sports or other activities.
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