What Shin Splints Are: An Overview of This Muscular and Skeletal Condition

Runner with Shin Splint

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  • The main symptom of shin splints is pain in your shin, or the lower part of your leg, which can occur inside or outside the bone
  • Shin splints can be treated at home without medications, as long as it is done properly

Shin splints are a common problem for runners, especially for novices. Lack of experience is usually a risk factor, because beginners usually have poor running form and/or inappropriate equipment, and may try to push themselves as far as they can too early into their exercise program. The combination of these factors can cause pain in your shins, which can lead to shin splints and other leg-related injuries.1

The Main Symptoms of Shin Splints and How the Condition Is Diagnosed

The main symptom of shin splints is pain in your shin, or the lower part of your leg, which can occur inside or outside the bone. The pain typically develops during exercise. You may also feel some tenderness and soreness in the affected area. Aside from these, you may have weak or numb feet.2

If you exhibit pain in one of your shins, visit a doctor right away. Your physician will run a few tests to help determine whether you have shin splints or other conditions that can cause pain in the shinsc, such as stress fractures or tendonitis.3

2 Types of Shin Splints

There are two types of shin splints that can occur based on where the pain develops:4

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS)

As the name implies, the pain can be felt along the medial part of your shin bone, or the inside of the bone. The pain typically builds up slowly, until it becomes sharp to the point that your exercise routine is disrupted. It typically occurs when you’re new to exercising, or when you try to push your mileage too hard.

Exertional Compartment Syndrome

Similar to MTSS, exertional compartment syndrome occurs when you try to run for extremely long distances. The pain is deeper and it may even still be there after you rest.

In this type, the affected portion of your lower leg is the anterior compartment, or the outside of the shin. The cause is an increase in pressure of the tibialis anterior muscles that are responsible for lifting and lowering your feet while you run. As you run, the muscles contract and bring blood into the compartment, which causes the pressure to increase, thus resulting in pain.

Treating and Preventing Shin Splints Safely

Shin splints can be treated at home without medications, as long as it is done properly. If you’re diagnosed with the condition, you need proper rest to let the pain subside. To help quicken the healing, you may apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at the point of pain, several times a day. You may also perform stretching exercises specifically targeting your shin muscles to help with the pain.5

To prevent shin splints from happening again, the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that you should be pain-free for two weeks before partaking in any sort of exercise. From there, you can regain your physical fitness by gradually introducing running again. Not only should the duration of your run start small, but the frequency and intensity of your movement as well.6

MORE ABOUT SHIN SPLINTS

Shin Splints: Introduction

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin Splints Symptoms

Shin Splints Causes

Get Rid of Shin Splints

Types of Shin Splints

Shin Splints Treatment

Shin Splints Exercises

Shin Splints Prevention

Shin Splints Diet

Shin Splints FAQ

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