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Shin Splints: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Shin Splints

Shin splint causes are quite simple — overuse. Shin splints occur when muscles and bones in the lower part of the leg repeatedly pull at the point where they connect to the shin bone (tibia), causing inflammation and pain. The condition is more correctly called medial tibial stress syndrome and it causes shin pain due to repeated stress on the tibia, muscles and connective tissues.

With correct treatment, shin splints aren’t a serious problem and will not be permanent. However, if they’re ignored and no action is taken, they will turn into stress fractures, and these are much more difficult to deal with.

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How to Treat a Shin Splint

You’re more likely to be affected by shin splints if you run on hard surfaces, play high-impact sports that place stress on your legs, dance or march a lot, have flat feet or high arches, or have a condition such as osteoarthritis or a vitamin D deficiency that causes weakness in the bones. Symptoms are a dull ache or sharp pain in the lower legs, which can be occasional or persistent and tends to get worse after exercise.

The normal shin splints treatment is to take a rest from your normal activities, possibly for a few weeks, so your muscles and bones are able to recover. Applying ice to the affected area will reduce any swelling and pain while anti-inflammatory pain relievers and vitamin D3 supplements may also help, as will physical therapy.

Once the pain and inflammation decrease, you can resume activities but should increase your levels gradually to prevent a recurrence.

Shin Splints Prevention

If you engage in physical activity such as running, shin splints are always possible. In order to reduce the likelihood:

  • wear supportive shoes, especially if you have flat feet or high arches, and replace running shoes every three hundred miles so they continue to give adequate support
  • always precede any physical activity with stretching exercises to warm up the muscles
  • increase activity levels gradually, generally by about 10% a week, so you don’t overreach yourself
  • take a break between activities so your muscles and bones are able to recover
  • don’t run on surfaces that are hard, hilly or uneven and mix with low-impact exercise such as swimming to reduce the strain on your legs
  • stop or reduce activity levels if you experience any pain.

If you follow this advice but the pain doesn’t decrease, this may indicate the shin splints have developed into stress fractures, which are much more serious and take longer to heal. Swollen legs that are red or painful may also indicate an infection or something else so give us a call at any of our three clinics or book an appointment online and we’ll get you sorted out quickly.

We can organise an ultrasound or MRI scan to assess the extent of the actual problem and then a shin splint treatment in Brisbane as appropriate. This may involve a mixture of rest, medication, a revised diet or a change of footwear or exercise routine. Whatever is necessary, we’ll get you back fit and active without too much delay.

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