What are shin splints?

Shin splints are caused by the repetitive strain in the connective muscle tissue surrounding the tibia, resulting in pain along the inner edge of the shin with a potential risk of micro-fractures along the shin as well. Often developed from excessive physical activity, shin splints come with extreme pain along the length of the shin limiting almost all lower body exercise. Let us break down what exactly happens when an individual is diagnosed with shin splints.

How are they caused?

Shin splints are defined as the inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone around the tibia. When the muscles begin to swell, pressure increases against the bone which can lead to pain. This inflammation is typically present due to the overworking of the muscle and periosteum in the leg from repetitive activity. In addition, shin splints can be caused from sudden changes in physical activity including:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Surface of activity (variation of hard and soft surfaces)

Some other factors include:

  • Exercising with improper footwear
  • Flat feet or abnormally high arches
  • Weak ankles, hips, or core muscles

If the body is not given enough time to rest, micro fractures can occur along the tibia, eventually leading to a complete fracture of the tibia. However, the body is able to repair these minute fractures if given enough time to recover.

In addition, chances of acquiring shin splints can be reduced by following these steps:

  • Increasing exercise intensity gradually
  • Wearing shock-absorbent insoles
  • Stretching properly
  • Avoiding exercise on hard terrain

Signs and Symptoms

Shin splints can consist of some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain along the inner shin
  • Swelling of leg
  • Pain developing during exercise
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Weakness in foot

How long is recovery and how is it treated?

Recovery time for shin splints can vary depending on the severity and the stage that they are at. However, average recovery time can range anywhere from 2-4 weeks all the way to 3-6 months. The treatment for shin splints is very simple as the main component is rest. Other forms of treatment include:

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen)
  • Stretching
  • Foam rolling legs
  • Surgery (only for extreme cases)
  • Physiotherapy to strengthen calf muscles

It is important to stop physical activity right away as soon as discomfort is felt to reduce further aggravation of the muscles in the leg and to not lengthen injury time.

Sumen Singla

Sumen Singla

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