Shin splints are painful and common among several athletes, gymnasts, and dancers. While this medical condition can be due to any physical activity, it is most common among the runners, especially those who have just started. The term ‘shin splints’ denotes pain that occurs in the shinbone or tibia of the leg. It is acutely felt in the front or inside the leg bone and is usually coupled with discomfort, redness, and swelling in the posterior (back) or anterior (front) area of the leg.
Medically, the condition is known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or MTSS. Herein, aching pain triggers in the front of the lower leg within a few minutes after the commencement of physical activity such as running, or skating. Although the pain can go away during the activity, it is likely to come back once the activity is over. Pain often occurs along the shinbone’s internal area, which is the larger bone extending in the area of lower leg. This pain can be anywhere from between the knee and ankle.
Shin Splints Can Be Bone and Muscle Related
Usually, they are muscle- and bone-related. In most cases, shin splints trigger from the shinbone, which means that the bone becomes sore and then swell, due to a high-impact activity. If not treated, the injury can become a stress fracture characterized by more pain as well as longer healing period. On the other hand, 10% of cases are due to muscle-related issues. Herein, the tibialis anterior or the muscle in the leg’s front swells. As it swells, the surrounding tendons become quite resistant or tight, triggering pain. The injury is muscle related in case you can apply gentle pressure to your shinbone without much pain.
Why Do I Get Shin Splints
Predictably, they are more widespread amongst runners, particularly those who cover several miles. Apart from runners, athletes experiencing shocks or big impacts on difficult grounds such as on asphalt courts are also vulnerable to shin splints. Regardless of the exercise or sport chosen, three major factors answer why one gets shin splints.
- Body Mechanics: If feet roll inward while running or if you are over-striding, unnecessary additional force can be on the tibia bone, which is enough to trigger discomfort.
- Long Distance and Speedy Activity: Pain can also trigger depending upon far you run or how often you run quickly beyond your comfort level.
- Bone Density or Bone Weakness: This is the cause in females in whom the bone density lowers after the age of 30. This certainly increases the risk. Moreover, eve high BMI levels can be the cause.
Other factors can also increase the risk of shin splints, these are:
- Inflammation of ligaments and tibia muscles
- No enough arch support to flat feet
- Overuse of legs causing swollen muscles and irritation (cause of frequent pain)
- Small breaks in the lower leg bones
- Excess force on the muscle and tissue area of tibia
- Inappropriate shoes
- Not fully recovered from previous shin splints
- Poor activity technique
- Weak lower leg muscles
- Tearing away of tibia muscles
Medically, the tearing is due to torquing and linear force inflicted on the muscles and tendons by energetic activities. Female athletes are more susceptible to shin splints than male athletes are, as the former’s broader pelvis tilts the legs to trigger a more torquing force.
How to Deal with Shin Splints Pain
Without treatment, the pain is likely to increase and become more frequent. However, the good news is that you can heal it through a few simple remedies.
- Rest is the most vital treatment for healing the tissues of shinbone. This means you should avoid performing any exercise triggering pain and consider cross training with activities of low impact like bicycling, pool training, or elliptical machine workout. You might have to continue with these activities even for weeks. At times, you can even try healing by alleviating the activity level to avoid pain.
- Ice pack is perhaps the most effective healer for alleviating both pain and swelling. You should apply a pack for almost 15-20 minutes, for at least 4-8 times in a day until the symptoms of shin splints subside. In most cases, icing before warming up can prove to be quite effective.
- Compression techniques such as using a compression sleeve or an elastic wrap can help heal the condition.
- Elevation is another vital treatment component. Herein, you just have to lift your leg to your heart level, which triggers gravity for the fluid to drain. This fluid is responsible for swollen tissues. When it drains, it helps alleviating the pain and boosts healing.
- Over-the-counter pain healing and anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can also heal significantly.
- Massaging muscles can also relieve pain but without further damaging the tissues by overdoing it. According to experts, massaging before exercising heats the muscles, which assists a lot in taking care of muscles and ensures increased flow of blood.
- Arch supports for removing the stress can also heal significantly.
- Rehab exercises as suggested by your physiotherapist can relieve stress and swelling, which ultimately helps in reducing pain.