What Are Shin Splints?

I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of sports related injuries but I can say from firsthand experience that there aren’t many injuries as painful as shin splints. The sharp pains can come while jogging or during nearly any athletic event.

The term “shin splints” which is used to describe the lingering exercise-related lower leg pain is usually caused by either one of three conditions. Tissue inflammation of the shin-bone, stress fractures of either of the lower leg bones or finally, compartment syndromes.

The pain, which can be felt either in the front, inside, or back of the leg is primarily an overuse injury that gradually develops during excessive sports activity.

Tissue inflammation.
The muscles and tendons that cover the shin-bone can become inflamed and may cause swelling. I can attest that, sometimes, you can feel the immense pain before, during, and after whatever athletic event you’re participating in. The repetitive pounding of your feet during running sports like aerobics, basketball, and volleyball especially causes the pain to occur.

Stress Fractures.
Stress fractures is an ailment I haven’t had to ever deal with. It appear as tiny cracks in the lower leg bones and may occur when muscle tolerance is exceeded, or when muscle contractions bend the bones. Stress fractures are common in distance runners and ballet dancers. If you have thin bones, you are at a greater risk as well.

Compartment syndromes.
The muscles in the lower leg are in compartments separated by membrane walls. Excessive training can cause muscles to get too big for their compartments. When the leg is at rest there is no problem. During exercise the muscles swell with blood, putting pressure on the nerves and blood supply. Tightness, numbness, and tingling in the lower leg are signals that a medical emergency has developed. If you leave it untreated, long-term loss of function in the leg will result.

To lessen the risk of shin splints:
Wear well-cushioned, stable running shoes.
Run on soft surfaces like grass, dirt, or exercise mats.
Increase the intensity of your workout gradually.
Warm up and cool down. Follow both with calf stretches.

Check with a podiatrist to see if you need orthotic inserts for your shoes. After all your symptoms have improved, do leg-strengthening exercises. Treat minor problems with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If they don’t improve, get a medical examination. Proper diagnosis is important for treatment and recovery.

So now you know everything you’ve ever wanted to about shin splints. Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with this painful condition.

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