Shin Splints

Chronic pain in the shins (known as shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome) is a common affliction for athletes everywhere, particularly runners.

There’s no one cause of shin splints, as the term itself can refer to several different diagnoses with overlapping symptoms. The primary inflammation may be in muscle, tendon, or bone tissue (or all three) in and around the tibia (shinbone).

However, regardless of the cause, the pain is more than enough to keep you from the things you love. Fortunately, successful treatment for shin splints can usually be achieved through conservative means.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

Pain is most often centered along the tibia’s inner border, which is where the muscles attach to the bone. It can range from a dull, throbbing ache to a sharp, razor-like stabbing. Generally, pain is the worst both during and after exercise. Pushing on the shin with your hands may aggravate the discomfort.

What Causes Chronic Shin Pain?

Most often, shin splints result from chronic overuse. As mentioned above, runners are particularly vulnerable to shin pain. However, anyone who participates in running or jumping sports, dance, military training, etc. can be affected. Other common risk factors include:

  • Sudden changes in physical activity—whether switching sports or ramping up duration or intensity of exercise in a short timeframe
  • Structural foot issues, such as flat feet or rigid high arches
  • Gait abnormalities, such as over- or under-pronation
  • Footwear that doesn’t fit properly, or is worn out
  • Poor mobility and/or flexibility in joints, particularly at the ankle

Shin Splints Treatment and Prevention

Conservative treatments are highly effective for shin splints. The most effective procedures for you will depend on the underlying causes of your condition. Successful management often includes some or all of the following components:

  • Rest. Avoid high-impact physical activities for a few weeks to give your shins a chance to heal.
  • Ice. Helps control pain and swelling.
  • Compression bandages. Helps control swelling.
  • Physical therapy. This is especially effective when pain is related to lack of flexibility or tight calf muscles or tendons.
  • Custom orthotics. These accommodate or fix structural or biomechanical abnormalities that place extra stress on the shins.
  • Proper equipment. Make sure your shoes fit, are in good repair, and provide the features you need for your sport or activity.
  • Cross train. Mix up your activities so you aren’t all-in on high-impact activity every day. For example, try running fewer times per week and adding cycling or swimming to your routine in its place.
  • Give your body time to adjust. Increase exercise time or intensity slowly, and ease into new sports or activities gradually.

Shin pain should not force you to stop activities you used to enjoy. Take control of your life back! Call Gulf South Foot & Ankle and schedule an appointment with one of our physicians today. We have two convenient New Orleans-area offices to serve you:

  • Metairie: (504) 708-4810
  • Covington: (985) 809-1464

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Metairie Office
MON - FRI 9:00AM - 5:00PM
SAT 9:00AM - 12:00 Noon

Covington Office
MON - FRI 9:00AM - 5:00PM
SAT 9:00AM - 12:00 Noon
Additional appointment times available upon request

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