The term “shin splints” is used to refer to pain felt along the front of the lower leg, at the shin bone. This condition is classified as an overuse injury where repeated impact and stress on the joints, muscles, and bones of the lower legs prevents your body from naturally repairing and restoring itself.
As a condition caused by overuse, shin splints are fairly common among those who regularly engage in physical activity. If you participate in high-impact sports, then your risk of developing shin splints increases significantly.
Sometimes shin splints can be so painful that participating in your favorite sports, or simply performing routine tasks, can become difficult (or even impossible!). And, though you may be tempted to keep pushing through the pain, doing so will only make the problem worse and may eventually require more aggressive treatment to correct the issue and relieve your symptoms.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for you, because this type of injury can often be treated with only some simple at-home remedies—as long as you seek professional help early and stay disciplined!
What Are the Symptoms?
Do you suspect you have developed shin splints? Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms:
- Numbness and weakness in the feet
- Pain that begins during physical activity
- Pain on either side, or front, of the shin bone
- Swelling in the lower leg (usually mild, if present)
In severe cases, pain can be felt even when resting. There may also be lumps or bumps felt along the bones, as well as red patches on the skin around painful areas.
No matter your degree of pain, if you think you have developed this condition, your best course of action is to come visit our office right away. After a thorough evaluation of your lower legs and feet, we will be able to determine an accurate diagnosis and provide you with the proper treatment steps to get you the relief you need.
What Are the Causes?
As previously mentioned, shin splints are often a result of constant pounding that eventually leads to the development of tiny cracks in the bones of the leg, or painful inflammation in the surrounding muscles and tendons. Your body can usually repair the damage when given enough time to rest, but when you don’t allow your legs and feet to recover, the injury may become more severe, or chronic.
There are other factors that may increase the risk of shin splints, however. These include:
- General lack of fitness
- Flat feet or high arches
- Tight Achilles tendon or calf muscles
- Sudden increase in exercise intensity
- Pre-existing muscle imbalance, such as weak ankles
- Wearing worn-out shoes without adequate cushioning
- Activities taking place on uneven ground or slopes, like running
- Sports played on hard surfaces involving stopping or starting suddenly, like basketball
Overpronation of the feet and ankles is also thought to cause shin splints. This happens when the foot rolls farther downward and toward the center of the body than it’s supposed to when you walk. Overpronation causes muscles to tire faster and may place additional stress on the shinbone.
Thankfully, there are plenty of steps you can take in order to treat and prevent this condition from holding you back.
What Are the Treatments?
First, shin splints typically require you to take a break from certain physical activities and give your legs time to rest.
During this recovery period, you can engage in physical activities that are of lower-impact and less likely to cause additional harm to your legs. So, if you just can’t stand the thought of taking it easy for a few days or weeks, try swimming or biking instead.
Other simple at-home remedies that may be helpful during your recovery include:
- Applying ice to the area in pain. Wrap some ice in towels and place it on the affected area for 15 minutes every few hours until symptoms subside.
- Taking OTC medications. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain relievers, like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium can help ease the pain and swelling.
- Do some stretching. Gently stretch the Achilles tendon with some easy exercise routines.
Once the pain has completed subsided, you can then return to your regular physical activities. However, this must be done gradually to prevent a recurrence. And if you begin to feel discomfort again, your best bet is to stop all physical activities and contact our office so that we can develop a more fine-tuned treatment approach.
Though surgery is rarely necessary, when shin splints are causing severe pain and/or symptoms persist for more than several months, this option will be taken into consideration. And, if that ends up being the case for you, then we will provide you with all the information you need in order to make an informed decision moving forward.
Find the Relief You Need at Kalamazoo Podiatry Today!
If you are ready to put an end to painful shins, and start living a more comfortable, pain-free life, just give our office a call. We have the best knowledge and tools available to help you make shin splints a problem of the past.
You can reach our office by calling (269) 373-1019 to schedule your appointment. Or, if you prefer, you can also connect with us by filling out our handy request form online to have one of our trained staff members contact you.