If you’re a runner, dancer, current or former member of the armed forces, or have spent any time playing or following sports, you’ve probably at least heard of shin splints. The bane of athletes everywhere, shin splints—known medically as medial tibial stress syndrome—are a common sports injury that can cause significant pain, tenderness, swelling, and soreness along the shinbone, keeping you out of action for weeks at a time or more.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints, plain and simple, result from overuse. Your feet and legs are designed to handle a heavy load, but repeated stresses from activities like running (especially on uneven terrain) or high-impact running-and-jumping, starting-and-stopping sports (basketball, tennis, squash, etc.) can wear them down and cause pain if you don’t prepare properly or get enough rest time in between.
New athletes or those just beginning an intense exercise program are particularly at risk, since their bodies are not used to the stresses. For example, shin splints are common in new military recruits going through boot camp. Additionally, foot problems such as flat feet or overpronation can make you more susceptible to swollen, painful shins.
Treating Shin Splints at Home
While shin splints can be a painful irritant, the good news is that most cases do resolve with simple, self-care techniques.
The most important of these is rest—we know that no runner or athlete wants to be told to take a complete break from their sport for a couple of weeks, but if you persist (even at a reduced level) you will likely undo the healing that has already taken place and have to start over. Fully avoid any activities that cause pain. To stay active, try low-impact exercise (cycling or swimming, for example) instead.
At the same time, you can use OTC painkillers, ice (15 minutes at a time, no more than once per hour), and elevation to help you control pain and swelling. You should also check your shoes to make sure that they fit correctly, are appropriate for your sport, provide adequate support for your arch, and are in good repair.
Professional Treatment for Shin Splints
If your shin splints aren’t going away, keep coming back, or they hurt all the time (not just when you’re active), it may be time to call Dr. Danciger.
Professional treatment options for shin splints will be determined following an evaluation, and may include:
- Laser therapy, a revolutionary and completely non-invasive treatment that uses light to stimulate your body’s own natural healing processes and reduce pain and swelling.
- Arch supports or custom orthotics to provide additional support for an underlying foot condition that may be contributing to your shin splints, such as flat feet.
- Stronger anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone shots.
Additionally, you may have a more serious related problem, such as stress fractures, which may only be diagnosed using X-rays or other diagnostic technologies available in our office.
If you just can’t find a way to overcome your aching shins, please visit our office for a professional evaluation. Dr. Danciger has spent his career helping people of all ages overcome their foot, ankle, and lower leg sports injuries and other problems, and he can help you, too. To schedule an appointment, use our online contact for or dial 760-568-0108.