Shin Splints

There are not likely many situations where dancers and military recruits fall into the same category. After all, dancer express themselves artistically on stages, whereas military personnel train for combat and have the responsibility of protecting our nation. Of course, individuals in both areas find themselves together on the list of individuals who have an increased vulnerability to physical injuries, like shin splints.

Shin Splint Causes and Symptoms

Also known as “tibial stress syndrome,” shin splints are a rather common lower leg injury that people can develop from several different activities.

This particular injury is experienced along the larger of the two bones that form the lower leg – the tibia. This leg bone is a key part of both the knee and ankle joints and is actually responsible for supporting most the body’s weight during standing, running, and other upright activities. This shinbone and its respective muscles and tendons can become injured when faced with repetitive stress. When the connective tissues that anchor muscles to the shinbone are overworked, issues can begin to develop.

Levels of duration and/or intensity in physical activities that are increased suddenly and without a gradual build are more likely to result in this particular overuse injury. Individuals who to tend to be at an increased risk of developing shin splints include:

  • Novice runners who are just starting a training program
  • Military recruits not used to intense physical activity
  • Dancers and athletes who participate in sports played on hard surface and/or require frequent, sudden starts and stops
  • Those who have arch abnormalities – flatfoot or cavus foot (high foot arches)

The main shin splint symptom is simply a sharp pain that will typically accompany physical activity, especially those that feature running. Soreness and tenderness running along the inner edge of the tibia bone are other common symptoms. Less often, swelling is present with the injury.

It is important to note that even though you might feel the pain recede when you have finished participating in physical activity (running, dancing, etc.), this does not mean that the condition has improved. Without appropriate treatment, pain from the condition can worsen and even become a lingering, continuous issue. Once that point has been reached, home care will not be as effective and you should schedule an appointment with us here at Advanced Foot and Ankle.

Shin Splint Treatment and Prevention

Fortunately, the majority of tibial stress syndrome cases can be effectively treated through the use of at-home care. These conservative methods include:

  • Rest. Taking time away from high-impact activities is necessary to improve the injury, but even better is switching to low-impact exercises in the meantime to keep you active but still allow your overworked leg tissues to properly heal.
  • Ice. You can alleviate both pain and swelling by icing the injured shin four to eight times during the day for 15 to 20 minutes each time. Be sure to wrap the ice in a thin towel first to protect the skin from damage.
  • Pain medication. Over-the-counter medications are also helpful for relieving pain and swelling, but always check with our office for the specific types and recommended dosages that will work best for you.

The best practice for treating shin splints is to prevent the injury from happening in the first place. The good news is that the best tips for avoiding this common condition are fairly easy, like:

  • Wear proper footwear. Always choose footwear that fits correctly and is activity-appropriate. Be sure to replace your running shoes after 350-500 miles.
  • Cross-train. Avoid overworking soft tissues in your lower legs by replacing some high-impact activities for low-impact ones. For example, instead of running six days a week, run three times and cycle or swim on the other days.
  • Use arch supports. Some over-the-counter inserts can provide adequate arch support to keep shin splints at bay. You also can see us to have custom orthotics crafted especially for your unique feet and gait pattern.
  • Strength training. Strengthening your calf muscles will decrease your risk of this and other injuries like Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis.

Shin splints are just one of many conditions we effectively treat for our patients here at Advanced Foot and Ankle. Contact our Twin Falls, ID foot doctor office for more information by calling (208) 731-6321. You can also reach our Burley office at (208) 312-4646 or request your appointment online today.