What are Shin Splints?
The term shin splints is often used to describe any pain felt between the knee and the ankle in and around the shin area, and more specifically, to describe pain along the large bone (tibia) on the front of your leg.
The fact is, ‘shin splints’ is not really a diagnosis. Shin splints is a catch-all term for tenderness and pain in the shin area. People who suffer from shin splints often complain of mild swelling, soreness or pain along the inner part of their lower leg or around their shin bone.
• Dull aching sensation along either side of the shin bone during or after running
• More intense aching sensation while walking or running
• At first, it may be possible to run through the pain, but ignoring shin splints can lead to pain that is bad enough to force you off your feet. It can also lead to a more severe or a domino effect injury.
Medical professionals have differed on their opinions on the exact cause of shin splints. It is generally accepted that they result from the inflammation of the posterior peroneal tendon and its surrounding tissues in the shin region. Shin splints are typically an injury caused by stress accumulation rather than from a specific traumatic act.
Who is prone to shin splints?
People who engage in frequent and intense athletic activity are at risk for shin splints. Those who play sports that involve sudden starts and stops are also much more likely to experience them. Athletes who play sports such as soccer, tennis, basketball and football have a higher risk of developing shin splints due to the nature of those types of sports.
There are several theories as to why they occur. In fact, not everyone feels the pain of shin splints in the same location and not everyone’s shin splints are caused by the same issue.
Shin splint pain may be caused by bone trauma, muscle tears, tendonitis or a combination of injuries.
Mild discomfort is often treated easily with rest, ice, compression and stretching, but it’s important to have the correct diagnosis from a medical professional. This is especially the case because prolonged or chronic shin splints can easily be something other than “shin splints”.
Over Use: Anterior Shin Splints and Posterior Shin Splints
Shin splints that occur from overuse tend to occur in two regions of the leg.
Anterior shin splints occur in the front, often outer side of your shin bone (This is referred to as the proximal anterior lateral region of the leg.) The shin splints pain runs vertically on your leg. It is important to note that horizontal pain could be the sign of a fracture.
Posterior shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome- MTSS) occur in the inner side of the shin bone (This area is referred to as the distal medial region of the leg). These are most common among athletes like runners or highly active individuals.
Fractures or Compartment Syndrome
Sometimes people believe they are suffering from chronic shin splints when they really have a fracture or compartment syndrome.
It is very important to receive a correct diagnosis of the cause of shin splints pain or discomfort in order to choose the most appropriate treatment. If shin splints go untreated, you may begin living more of your life dealing with shin pain than being active without it.