Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Shin Splints

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), are a common overuse injury that affects the lower leg, specifically the shin area (tibia). It often occurs in athletes or individuals who engage in repetitive activities that put stress on the shinbone and surrounding tissues. Here’s an overview of shin splints, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies:

Common Symptoms

  • Pain: Dull, aching pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, often occurring during or after exercise.
  • Tenderness: Tenderness or soreness when touching the affected area.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling in the lower leg.
  • Pain with Activity: Pain that diminishes with rest but returns when activity resumes.

Cause & Anatomy

  • Repetitive Stress: Activities that involve repetitive running, jumping, or high-impact movements can strain the muscles, tendons, and bone tissues in the lower leg.
  • Muscle Imbalance: Weakness or imbalance in the muscles of the lower leg, particularly the shin and calf muscles.
  • Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes that lack proper support or cushioning can contribute to shin splints.
  • Training Errors: Sudden increases in intensity, duration, or frequency of exercise without proper conditioning can lead to shin splints.

Diagnosis

  • Physical Examination: Assessment of symptoms and tenderness along the shinbone.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays are typically normal but may be used to rule out other conditions. MRI or bone scans may be recommended if there is suspicion of stress fractures or other underlying issues.

Prevention

  • Gradual Progression: Gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise to allow the body to adapt.
  • Proper Technique: Maintain proper form and technique during physical activities, particularly those involving running or jumping.
  • Footwear: Wear appropriate shoes for your activity, replacing them regularly as they wear out.
  • Cross-Training: Incorporate a variety of activities into your routine to reduce repetitive stress on specific muscles and joints.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Rest and Activity Modification:

  • Initial Rest: Avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms. Rest allows inflammation to decrease and tissues to heal.
  • Gradual Return to Activity: Gradually resume activities once pain subsides, starting with low-impact exercises and increasing intensity and duration slowly.

Ice Therapy:

  • Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce pain and inflammation.

Pain Relief:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Stretching and Strengthening:

  • Stretching: Perform calf stretches and shin stretches to improve flexibility and reduce tension in the muscles.
  • Strengthening: Strengthen the muscles of the lower leg, including the calves and shins, to improve support and reduce strain on the shinbone.

Footwear and Orthotics:

  • Wear proper footwear with good arch support and cushioning, especially during physical activities.
  • Consider using orthotic inserts or shoe modifications recommended by a healthcare professional.

Physical Therapy:

  • A physical therapist can provide targeted exercises, stretching routines, and techniques to improve biomechanics and prevent recurrence.

When To Seek Medical Attention

  • If pain persists despite rest and home treatment.
  • If there is severe swelling, redness, or warmth in the lower leg.
  • If there is difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg.

Conclusion

Shin splints are a common overuse injury that can be managed effectively with rest, activity modification, and appropriate rehabilitation strategies. By addressing contributing factors such as muscle imbalances, improper footwear, and training errors, individuals can reduce the risk of developing shin splints and promote healthy lower leg function during physical activity. Consulting with a healthcare professional or physical therapist can provide personalized guidance on treatment and prevention based on individual needs and circumstances.

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