Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)

This bone condition is characterized by painful swelling, usually along the front of the lower leg. Shin splints are common among runners and other athletes and can be a sign of deeper issues. Learn more about shin splints causes and treatment and how Resurgens can help you get moving again.

What You Need To Know About Shin Splints

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints is the common term used to describe the pain felt along the tibia (shin bone), also known as medial tibial stress syndrome. Shin splints appear as radiating pain in the area between the knee and ankle. The pain from shin splint pain can feel so intense that you feel like you need to stop your workout.

There are two different types of shin splints. Anterior shin splints are characterized by pain and swelling at the front of the shin bone, especially when flexing the foot upward. Posterior shin splints are often felt as pain, swelling, or small bumps on the inside of the lower leg muscles.

This condition develops from overuse of the muscles, bones, and joints in the lower leg. There are many different risk factors that may make you more susceptible to medial stress syndrome. Shin splints are common in athletes, dancers, and anyone who engages in repetitive strenuous action. You are especially susceptible to developing shin splints when starting an athletic regimen. People with flat feet may also be more likely to develop shin splints.

There are many types of shin splints treatment options. They range from nonsurgical options like compression and ice packs to corrective surgery. Sometimes shin splints can be a sign of underlying issues like stress fractures.

Your doctor can tell you more about shin splints. Book an appointment today.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints occur from overuse of the tibia. Excessive force due to repetitive activity on the shin bone and surrounding tissues causes the pain felt from shin splints.

Constant pounding causes small cracks to develop in the leg bones. Usually, a body will be able to repair itself naturally. Consistent overuse causes the body to not be able to recover between bouts of strenuous activity. When the body isn't able to recover, then these minute cracks can turn into stress fractures or complete fractures.

Although any repetitive activity can cause shin splints to develop, some physical attributes put you at a higher risk of developing shin splints:

  • Having abnormal foot construction

  • Running or working out on hard surfaces

  • Not wearing proper shoes or wearing shoes that have lost their ability to cushion your foot

Having previous conditions like bone fractures can increase your risk of developing shin splints.

Shin Splint Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of shin splints is intense pain. The pain usually appears in 4-6 inch increments across the span of the knees to the ankles. You may notice pain at the beginning of your workout that lessens as you exercise. However, the pain usually returns towards the end of your routine.

Shin splints symptoms may include:

  • Weakness in feet

  • Dull ache in the front part of the lower leg

  • Pain that develops during exercise

  • Lower leg pain

  • Pain in the leg muscles

  • Pain on either side of shin bone

  • Lower leg swelling, soreness, or tenderness

Only a doctor can diagnose your condition. Schedule an appointment to talk to a Resurgens Foot and Ankle Center physician.

How are Shin Splints Diagnosed?

Typically, the diagnosis of shin splints will include a physical examination of your leg. The expert physicians at Resurgens Orthopaedics will also discuss your current health and family history during your assessment.

Next, they may use imaging technology like x-rays or MRIs, to evaluate your condition. These tools can help rule out other causes of your shin pain, such as stress fracture or tendonitis. Your physician will need to do a thorough examination to diagnose your condition and create your customized treatment plan. Shin splints can only be diagnosed by a professional.

Treatment for Shin Splints

There are many options available for shin splints treatment. They range from nonsurgical options, like rest and custom orthotics, to more thorough treatment options. Depending on your diagnosis, your Resurgens physician will recommend the best shin splints treatment options for your unique situation.

Before trying other therapy, it is best to stop exercising and dedicate time to resting. Switch from intensive workouts to low-impact cardio such as stationary bikes or swimming. Resting your shins and remembering to use ice packs can help alleviate your symptoms.

To combat pain swelling, your doctor may recommend you wear a compression boot as well as take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. They may also recommend changing your shoes or wearing orthotics to increase arch support and help with the pain. Flexibility exercises can help your shins feel better and prevent shin splints in the future.

Following a doctor's guidance, you may gradually increase your level of activity and resume your normal range of motion once you have recovered. If you are still unable to recover from your injuries, there are surgical options to help stabilize your leg. Generally, a Resurgens physician will never recommend surgery unless all other options have been exhausted.

Schedule an appointment today to find out about your shin splint treatment options.

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