Shin splints are pain or tenderness along or just behind the inner edge of the shin bone (tibia) of the lower leg. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints usually develop after physical activity, such as vigorous exercise or sports. Repetitive activity leads to inflammation of the muscles, tendons and periosteum, which is a thin layer of tissue covering the tibia. The bone tissue itself is also involved.
Tibial shin splints are quite common and can affect recreational as well as trained athletes. The common cause is overuse from too much activity and/or training with insufficient time between activities to allow the tissue to recover and heal.
A sudden change in the type of activity can also cause shin splints Other causes may be chronic anterior compartment syndrome, which affects the outer side of the front of the leg and causes numbness and clumsiness of the foot while exercising. Stress fractures, which usually result in sharp pain and tenderness one or two inches below the knee, are another cause of tibial shin splints.
- Pain over the inside lower half of the shin
- Pain experienced at the start of exercise which often eases as the session continues
- Pain returning after activity and progressively getting worse the next morning
- Presence of lumps and bumps when feeling the inside of the shin bone
- Pain when the foot or toes are bent downwards
- Redness over the inside of the shin.
- Start the healing process with two to four weeks of rest
- Applying ice or cold therapy in the early stages when it is very painful will reduce the pain and inflammation
- Stretch the muscles of the lower leg, in particular the tibialis posterior associated with shin splints
- Wear the right type of shoes and insert shock absorbing insoles that help to reduce the shock on the lower leg
- Maintain your fitness with other non weight bearing exercises such as swimming or cycling
- Apply a heat retainer or shin and calf support after the initial acute stage, particularly before training as this can provide support and compression for the lower leg. It will help to reduce strain on the muscles and retain the natural heat that causes blood vessels to dilate which, in turn, increases the flow of blood to the tissues, thus aiding in healing.
- When training for a long distance such as a marathon, distances should not increase by more than ten percent per week
- Try to avoid always running on hard pavements as they provide no shock absorption; instead diversify your route to incorporate tarmac, grass and even sand in order to reduce the shock passed through the legs
- Stretching on a daily basis and including a regular sports massage can help improve flexibility and lessen the probability of obtaining shin splints caused by overly tight muscles in the lower leg.
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