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Shin Splints Symptoms and Treatments

What Are Shin Splints?

Despite years of research, the term “shin splints” remains to be an obscure term to many athletes who lack awareness about sports injuries. Although, most studies attribute “shin splints” as the layman’s term for Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), which is an inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding the bone lining of the tibia (shinbone) and other adjacent tissues.

Because of the constant changes in the terminology of shin splints and its definitions, it is hard to establish the exact occurrence of shin splints on the leg hence it does get a bit trickier to cure shin splints. Most patients describe the pain to be in front of the outer leg, more specifically the lower inside half of the tibia and/or the upper outside portion of the tibia.

Shin splints are categorized in the group of “overuse injuries”, second only to knee injuries. It usually occurs gradually over a certain period, usually from weeks to months of exercise but, at times, it can suddenly occur whenever you work out inappropriately. When you exercise, your shins will carry about 6 times of the weight of your body. The constant stress you place on your foot during exercise, and other running and/or walking activities, causes microtears and inflammation on your muscles, bones, joints and surrounding tissues, which then prevents your body’s inherent ability from repairing and restoring itself. In that case, you may have to struggle a lot to cure shin splints.

This injury is commonly seen in athletes (i.e. soccer, football, basketball players, etc.) and military recruits, basically individuals who are excessive runners and aggressive walkers. That is, individuals who do not pace themselves properly when they walk and/or run. Also, long walks on flat pavements will overly flatten the arch on your foot which also stresses the lower leg thus resulting in shin splints. These patients usually complain about the pain right after exercising or the following morning.

Detailed Information About Shin Splints

The pain of “shin splints” starts of as dull in the beginning of the activity and gets worse thereafter. Shin splints occur because of improper and extreme exercise regimen. Also, when there is a sudden change in exercise routine and schedule of the individual. For instance, when you run a longer distance than what you are used to and when you put in additional time exercising. In addition, running and walking for a long period of time, hyperpronation or the flattening of the arch of the feet and not having the proper shoe support. The damages can be naturally healed by your body but because of the shock it cannot respond properly.

shin splints treatment
shin splints treatment

For a quick diagnosis, press your fingers on the spots where you feel the pain, when it is along 2 inches or more, it would be best to visit your physician before causing anymore damage. Shin splints are usually cured by the RIICE (i.e. rest, ice, immobile, compression and elevation) method, coupled with anti-inflammatory medicines. ‘Active rest’ involves cutting back on activities that aggravates your leg and taking up swimming for instance, this makes it possible to cure shin splints and helps speed up recovery time. Icing your leg for 10-15 minutes alleviates the pain. Keeping your legs immobile with the help of casts, this is for extreme cases, helps with pain and recovery. Compressing your leg with shin wraps and elevating your leg helps with blood circulation and speeds up the healing process, making it easy to cure shin splints.

Of course, prevention is still the best cure. Try using orthopedic shoes, changing your exercise ground from hard to softer surfaces and pampering yourself with occasional deep tissue massage to untie those tight muscle knots. Still the best prevention is moderation.

What Kinds of People Commonly Get Shin Splints?

The common profile or characteristics of people who gets shin splint injuries are athletes (e.g. runners, soccer and basketball players) and other individuals (e.g. dancers and soldiers under intense training) who engages in activities that involves excessive running, jogging, jumping and walking. Shin splints injury can occur suddenly right after the activity but for most it is gradual; however it is possible to cure shin splints.

Individuals susceptible to shin splints are those who suddenly changes or increases their exercise practices or training. That is, when they run longer distances than their normal range, going out their usual routes like going uphill and adding more hours and days in their normal schedule. The sudden changes causes stress on their lower legs which are not accustomed to the added burden, this can lead to tearing and/or inflammation of the muscles, bones and tendons. The body has the natural ability to heal itself but the sudden change overwhelms the body, thus, it cannot function normally. Remember that it always is important to pace yourself to minimize the stress and shock on your body, especially when you are planning to change your exercise routine. Also, because during exercise there is always added weight that your shin has to carry the sudden change may be too much of a burden.

In addition, shin splints also occur because of the over flattening of the arch of the feet, when you walk or run for long a period of time over a hard surface and when you are not wearing the right shoe for the activity. Remember that there is a reason that for every sport, there is a specific type of shoe required.

How Can You Tell if You have Shin Splints?

For a quick do-it-yourself diagnosis if you have shin splints follow these instructions. First, press your index and middle fingers on the spot where you feel pain. Then, softly press around the area. If the pain you are feeling is along an area of the leg ranging from 2 to 3 inches or more, then you probably have shin splints.

To be more certain to cure shin splints, especially when the pain is more than tolerable, you should check with your physician. General, if you go to seek for doctors to check whether you are having shin splints, what the doctors do is first taking a look at your health background. Then will perform a physical examination accompanied by an x-ray scan of your body. For extreme cases, doctors also order a bone scan or MRI in case the pain is more than just shin splints, it may be stress fracture on the tibia.

If you have shin splints, your diagnosis should result to either posterior or anterior shin splints. For posterior shin splints, the pain is happened in the lower inside portion of the tibia. This is usually seen on athletes with overpronation or excessive flattening of the arch of the foot. Conversely, anterior shin splints are tend to take place in both legs and normally can be happened on those who are having improper training or over-train. Also, with people who suddenly increases their running distances, changes their running terrain (e.g. running uphill) and increases their exercise hours.

To cure shin splints, most medical specialists recommend the RIICE method and pain medications. To put it simply, rest, ice, immobilization, compression and elevation. Rest meaning dramatically cutting back on running, jogging and walking, this may last for weeks may be months depending on how fast you overcome the injury. Ice compressions or cold packs helps in reducing swelling and pain. Immobilization of the leg is required when rest, ice and pain medications are not working; this requires a removable or non-removable cast. Compression requires shin splint wraps to reduce recovery time. Elevating your leg would also help in blood circulation which reduces pain and recovery time.

What Should You Do If You Have Shin Splints?

If you discovered that you are having shin splints, what are you going to do? How are you going to cure shin splints? You may wish to understand how to ward off potential threats, following a few steps in particular, if you want to keep an eye on this injury so that it doesn’t aggravate further.

Many anti-inflammatory medicines are available that provide relief from pain and help get rid of this ailment. To be precise, aspirin or ibuprofen can greatly lower the pain and provide enough endurance that keeps you going. Note that you cannot expect to take rest all the time, as too much of inactivity may also have some effects in terms of getting obese etc. To cure shin splints, you should be able to build the required level of endurance which you can obtain over a period of time, doing mild exercises that don’t wear down the muscles. Most importantly, you should be able to use these medicines an hour before you exercise, run, jog etc.

Have a reserve of ice when you have overused the shin splints. Take rest for hours together, if you’re experiencing excruciating pain in and around the region associated with the shin splints. You can apply ice packs on your legs with the purpose to compress the stressed muscle tissues, and it will bring you some relief for your legs. If the pain wouldn’t subsidize, go meet a physician and have him diagnose your condition. Discuss about how to cure shin splints.

The hot and cold effect seems to work well on your shins, so find some professional to rub down on that affected area. Take a deep tissue massage in tandem with using heat to soothe that swollen area; it’s a very effective way to cure shin splints and ease the stiff muscles and tendons.

How Do You Cure Shin Splints?

When we miss our footing, the foot gets pulled towards one direction, thus adding more stress on the shin muscles. Once our muscles get pulled, the calf and shin muscles get to an unbalanced position, and it does take few weeks to cure shin splints.

Before we learn how to cure shin splints, it’s essential to understand that we should assess the cause of this injury and take enough care so that the injury doesn’t get aggravated. So, it’s advisable to stop exercising for a few days. Besides, examine your shoes, and try to walk by wearing it so that you can feel if they are fit for your foot, and the supports around the arch are just adequate.

To cure shin splints, apply ice packs on the shins at least once a day. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes, and repeat this for 3 times successively. If pain doesn’t seem to recede, try massaging that area in a gentle manner. Continue this exercise, if it can heal the swollen parts inside. Aspirin or ibuprofen may help at times, as they alleviate mild pain and numbness. Provide more cushioning to your heel by placing a puffy piece of nylon under the inside sole of the shoe, if necessary. It’s needless to say that you need to take rest whenever possible; don’t grind yourself.

If you’re a person who looks up to exercising for healing your body’s instable state, there are some exercises that you could follow as well. But, don’t return to your normal regime unless you are shown the green signal by a certified physician who knows how to cure shin splints.

DIY Cures

For do-it-yourself cures that may assist in reducing pain and expedite the healing process, follow these following tips. You need to bear in mind if you feel the extreme pain of your leg, it is highly recommend for you to go seek for doctor and receive a proper treatment prior for you to carry out any curing action by yourself which might result in further injury.

First, try cold compressions for at least 10-15 minutes.

Second, rest your precious feet, cut-back on your exercise and other activities that can further aggravate your injury.

Third, wrap your injury with shin splint wrap to compress it. Fourth, elevate your leg, it should be higher that your heart level. Fifth, drink some anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen); remember to take it in moderation since such medications can cause ulcers and other stomach problems.

Lastly, deep tissue massage may also help, ask your physician for recommendation.

When all else fails, it might be time to visit your physician to cure shin splints. Once the doctors screen through your track record, went through a physical exam and x-ray scan, the doctor may put a cast on for 2-6 weeks. When the problem seems to be more than just shin splints, your doctor may order a bone scan or MRI for the possibility of a stress fracture.

What Happens to Untreated Shin Splints?

Failure to cure shin splints may result in a complex stress fracture recovering from which is a time consuming and shinnying process. As you know, shin splints is an injury that occurs due to damage in the lower leg bone especially in the mid shaft position. When the condition worsens, it might end up inciting terrible pain and inflammation owing to the distressed state of the muscles and a few tendons. Overusing these affected parts aggravate their state and make them worn out over time. Therefore, you’re advised to meet a doctor and discuss your case with him, if you have not seen any major improvement even after the passing of a few weeks.

Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS as it is called briefly, is another severe complication that comes about if one ignores the symptoms and fails to take adequate measures to cure shin splints. This condition is pretty similar to a state of acute injury which is generally triggered by excess burn out of the concerned muscles. MRI scans may reveal the severity of this problem and can help ascertain whether a stress fracture has happened or not. It takes more time to heal than what it takes to cure shin splints. Constant exercising and burning out of muscles is not ideal for any type of body. Not only it leads to a serious injury, but it also takes a toll on your mental health which is very essential considering your recovery process.

Chronic compartment syndrome (CCS) comes up as an aftermath of untreated shin splints case. The worst case scenario is that this condition may severe the lower leg so bad that it stops functioning as usual. Because of the swollen compartments of the lower leg, the blood flow is clogged and as a result the leg loses its normal functionality. And, at times, one needs to undergo an emergency surgery to avoid further complications.

How Can You Prevent Shin Splints?

“Prevention is cure.” I don’t know who coined it but it is nevertheless true. There are many ways to prevent shin splints. The most important is knowledge, because “knowledge is power.” Knowing what causes shin splints give you the information needed to avoid it and to cure shin splints.

Stress can be caused by sudden changes on the exercise routine and route, for instance covering longer distances than usual and increasing the number of hours you exercise, in other words extraneous exercises. In addition, walking or running for long hours and wearing the wrong shoes is bad for your shins.

As counter measures:

First, consider using orthopedic shoes, these are custom made shoes designed to redistribute your weight and gives you additional support.

Second, if you don’t want to invest on orthopedic shoes change your running surfaces from hard to softer grounds.

Third, take some time-off from your intensive workout routines. You can choose biking or swimming as your alternative exercises which won’t put additional burden on your leg. Taking it easy for a while gives your body the recovery time it needs to repair damage and restore by itself.

Lastly, practice proper warm-up and cool-down, everybody working-out and engages in sports knows these two basic concepts. Longer warm-up is recommended.

In addition, although the following recommendations help cure shin splints it may also serve as preventive measures. First, use cold packs on your leg to relieve muscle stress. Second, elevate your leg once in a while at least higher than your heart level. It helps with blood circulation. Lastly, treat yourself with a relaxing deep tissue massage, it relieves your stressed out muscles.

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As a rule for shin splints and in life as well, it is best to take everything into moderation.