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Shin Splints

Shin splints, also called medial tibial stress syndrome, is pain and inflammation along the inside part of the lower leg. Two bones make up the lower leg: the tibia on the inside and the fibula on the outside. Together, they are referred to as the shin bones. Shin splints occur when the muscles and other tissues around the tibia become inflamed. Shin splints are associated with vigorous and repetitive sports activity.

Shin Splints Hero Image 2

Shin splints, also called medial tibial stress syndrome, is pain and inflammation along the inside part of the lower leg. Two bones make up the lower leg: the tibia on the inside and the fibula on the outside. Together, they are referred to as the shin bones. Shin splints occur when the muscles and other tissues around the tibia become inflamed. Shin splints are associated with vigorous and repetitive sports activity.

What causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints is an overuse injury caused by too much force being placed on the muscles around the tibia, which becomes inflamed. This injury frequently occurs after starting or increasing physical activity, such as a running or exercise program. Shin splints are associated with sports that require quick starting and stopping, such as racket sports and running.

Shin splints are most common in these sports:

• Tennis
• Racketball
• Dancing
• Running
• Soccer
• Basketball

Symptoms

Sharp or dull pain on the inner part of shin is the primary symptom associated with shin splints.

Specific, common symptoms may include:

• Pain that is diffuse (not limited to one focal point)
• Pain that gets worse with activity
• As the condition progresses, pain that occurs earlier in an activity and with less activity
• Pain that can last after the activity is over, then resolves on its own with rest

When to see a doctor

Symptoms of shin splints can mirror those of other conditions, such as stress fractures. If you notice localized tenderness or swelling in your shin or you have difficulty with weightbearing, you should see your doctor. It is important to receive an accurate diagnosis so that you can get proper treatment. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will obtain a medical history and conduct a physical examination. X-rays and other imaging tests may be ordered to see if you have a stress fracture or to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

Non-operative treatment

Shin splints can generally be treated at home with rest and simple treatments. Athletes should avoid sports that aggravate their symptoms. Consult with your doctor about substituting these with activities that place less stress on the shins, such as swimming, so that you can stay active. Other conservative treatment options include:

• Icing for 15 minutes, two or three times daily, especially after activity
• Calf stretches
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to relieve pain
• Orthotic shoes that provide arch support
• Physical therapy to build flexibility and muscle strength

You can also try these exercises at home:

Shin Splints

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is not needed to treat shin splints.

Recovery

Generally, a full recovery from shin splints takes about four to six weeks. Athletes should be pain free before they return to play, and should resume their normal activities at a lower level of intensity so that they can build up strength. Proper stretching, appropriate shoes, and correct form and training will help prevent future shin splints. Your doctor and physical therapist can guide you through recovery so that you can resume your sport.

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