Shin Splints | Causes & Treatments
Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common condition that causes pain and inflammation along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia), typically during physical activity.
Shin splints are typically caused by repetitive stress on the shin bone and surrounding muscles, which can occur from activities such as running, jumping, or dancing. Factors that can contribute to the development of shin splints include overuse, improper footwear, poor running technique, and anatomical factors such as flat feet or high arches.
The pain may be sharp or dull and may become more intense while exercising, especially during high-impact activities. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for shin splints.
What Are The Symptoms?
The most common symptom of shin splints is pain or discomfort in the lower leg, particularly along the inner edge of the tibia. Other symptoms may include tenderness, lower leg or ankle swelling, or weakness. The lower leg may feel stiff or tight, especially during or after physical activity. Some people with shin splints may also experience numbness or tingling in the lower leg or foot.
The symptoms of shin splints can vary in severity and may come and go over time. In some cases, the pain may only occur during or after physical activity, while in other cases it may be present even at rest.
Shin splints and stress fractures have many symptoms in common, making it difficult to differentiate between the two conditions without proper medical evaluation. Stress fractures and shin splints are both overuse injuries that can cause pain in the lower leg, but they are different conditions with distinct causes and treatments.
Stress fractures are small cracks or breaks in the bones of the lower leg, typically the tibia or fibula. They can occur when the bones are subjected to repetitive stress, such as from high-impact activities like running or jumping. Shin splints, on the other hand, are a type of soft tissue injury that affects the muscles, tendons, and connective tissue in the lower leg.
If you have symptoms of shin splints, it is important to seek medical attention for confirmation.
Who Is At Risk for Shin Splints?
Shin splints occur when the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue in the lower leg become overworked, leading to small tears and inflammation in the area. Causes of shin splints vary, but some factors contributing to the development of shin splints include overuse, poor footwear, flat feet or high arches, muscle imbalances or weakness, and running or jumping on hard surfaces. Although anyone can develop shin splints, some risk factors set some individuals aside.
Professions that involve prolonged standing, walking, or running on hard surfaces, such as healthcare workers, military personnel, athletes, and dancers, are at higher risk of developing shin splints. A 2015 study comprising 577 professional ballerinas and danseurs showed a rate of 1.24 lower limb injuries per 1000 dance hours. Even with a high caliber of technical training, dancers are at an increased injury rate, so it is essential to know your treatment options.
People who work in jobs that require a lot of walking or standing, such as retail workers or servers, may also be at increased risk. These activities can stress the lower leg muscles and bones, leading to the development of shin splints over time.
Regarding gender, women are more likely than men to develop shin splints, particularly younger women who participate in high-impact activities. This may be due to differences in bone density, body mechanics, and hormonal factors. Another factor contributing to the prevalence of shin splints in women is the preferred shoe style. High heels and sandals are not likely to fit properly or provide needed support to the arches of the feet.
Age is also a factor that can affect the likelihood of developing shin splints. Shin splints are more common in younger people, particularly those who are still growing and developing. The bones and muscles are not yet fully mature, making them more susceptible to injury.
How to Treat Shin Splints with Custom Orthotics
Treatment for shin splints typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the affected leg, as well as pain relief medication as needed. Physical therapy and specific exercises to improve muscle strength and flexibility are also recommended to prevent a recurrence. In some cases, more severe or chronic cases may require surgery.
Fortunately, custom orthotics are a leading therapy option when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of shin splints, and can last for several years. Custom orthotics can be an effective treatment for shin splints, but their effectiveness may vary from person to person depending on the underlying causes of the condition. Seeing a healthcare provider is always recommended. URthotics work closely with doctors to ensure you get the best care available. Find out how custom orthotics can help treat your shin splints by giving us a call today!