Shin splints are injuries that commonly occur in runners. They cause pain along the inner side of the shinbone or the "tibia."
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Shin splints are injuries that commonly occur in runners. They cause pain along the inner side of the shinbone, or “tibia.” Many people experience this painful condition and personally I have had this condition due to playing competitive tennis.
Actually, anyone who is physically active and using their feet and legs in exercise or in sports can experience shin splints. Along with runners, it is rather common to suffer from shin splints if you play soccer, baseball or even basketball. Further, and more astonishing, even walkers are at risk if they walk too fast or too far.
Shin splints develop because of overuse of the posterior tibialis muscle in the lower leg near the shin. In most cases, this overuse is related to a sudden increase in the intensity of an athlete’s training program, like suddenly running faster, farther or for longer periods than before.
When shin splints first appear, the leg pain tends to start near the end of a training session. However, if the athlete ignores the pain tries to “run through it,” symptoms eventually will begin earlier and earlier during training, until they affect the athlete’s overall performance.
Shin splints cause muscle pain and tenderness along the inner side of the lower shin. These symptoms tend to affect about 2 to 6 inches of muscle and tendon in the shin area. Pain usually continues after exercise ends, and you may even feel it when you are resting and not putting weight on the affected leg.
Your doctor usually can diagnose shin splints based on your symptoms, your history of athletic activity and a physical examination. Your doctor will examine your shin area to confirm that the pain and tenderness are located in your leg muscle, or its tendon, rather than in the shinbone itself, because symptoms of shin splints can be confused with the pain of a tibial stress fracture, a small stress-related break in the shinbone.
A tibial stress fracture is another type of overuse injury that is common in athletes who run. Other important problems that can occur along with shin splints or can mimic the symptoms of shin splints include a stretch or tear of a nearby muscle or tendon or inflammation of the bone surface.
To help prevent shin splints follow these simple precautions.
1. Warm up before participating in running sports;
2. Follow an exercise program aimed at stretching and strengthening your leg muscles, especially muscles in your lower legs and around your ankles;
3. Wear customized shoe inserts, such as arch supports or heel wedges. These may be helpful if your doctor determines that your shin splits are partly related to an imbalance in the way you walk.
If you have shin splints, your doctor probably will recommend that you follow the RICE rules:
1. Rest the injured muscle — Take a break from running for 7 to 10 days;
2. Ice the injured area to reduce swelling;
3. Compress the muscle with an elastic bandage; and
4. Elevate the injured leg.
As your pain gradually goes away, your doctor may suggest that you start with a walking program before you begin running again. If your shin pain returns when you walk, then you will need to rest your legs again until you are pain-free for two or three days. As part of your rehabilitation, your doctor also may recommend an exercise program to strengthen the muscles in your lower legs and around your ankles. Remember, everything must be done in moderation!