Although a shin splint is commonly used to describe various pains between the ankle and the knee, it actually refers to a specific inflammatory condition of the tibia -- a condition called medial tibial stress syndrome.
A type of "overuse injury" to the legs, the most common causes of shin splints include excessive running, poor conditioning and over-pronation (flattening of the arch). The result is pain in the front or inside of the lower leg that usually gets worse with a sudden increase in distance or intensity of training. Shin splints are a common problem for many runners and athletes. Muscle weakness, non-supportive shoes and overtraining are also contributing factors.
To prevent shin splints, warm up and stretch muscles before starting any workout activity and choose supportive footwear. Begin workouts gradually and avoid over-training. All of these methods will go a long way in helping to prevent many lower leg problems. Conservative treatment for most shin splint pain includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. Strengthening exercises, anti-inflammatory agents and custom foot orthotics may also be recommended to reduce symptoms.
Shin pain isn't always indicative of a shin splint. Lower leg pain may actually signal a more serious problem, including a stress fracture, partial muscle tear and tendonitis, all of which require special treatment. Always seek the professional care of a podiatrist if:
- You have severe pain in your shin following an injury.
- Your shin is hot and inflamed.
- Swelling in your shin increases.
- Shin pain persists during rest.
Proper diagnosis of the cause of pain is necessary in order to administer the most appropriate treatment. If you suffer from shin pain, visit your podiatrist for an evaluation and proper treatment.