When Shin Splints Attack

Have you ever noticed some pain in one or both of your shins after a long run or exercise routine? If you have then you might have had shin splints at the time. Formally known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints can vary in level of severity and pain. More often than not, you will know if you have this injury because of its ability to cause significant amounts of pain with each step you take. It may even hurt to simply raise your toes if you have a bad case.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Probably one of the most likely things that you will feel if you have shin splints will be a dull pain on the front of your lower leg, which can become intense after running or exercising. This pain can be felt in many different degrees depending on how much damage was done to the area. Also, another frequent irritation from shin splints is pain during activity that requires you to be mobile. Things like running, weight lifting, biking, kicking motions, and sometimes simply walking can trigger pain when you have shin splints.

You may also notice that the area where you are feeling pain is tender to the touch, this can be common with shin splints. The inflammation often causes the region to be warm to the touch and it could possibly be visibly red. Tightness in your muscles is another thing that you can experience with shin splints, this can be a common symptom many lower leg problems or injuries. When you have shin splints something that you will usually experience is swelling in your lower leg in general. This could lead to pain that could feel like pulses throughout your shin in the front as well as the back

One symptom that you could have to deal with that is often irritating is some loss of flexibility, which could make bending down or other motions more difficult to do until you have recovered. There is still another pretty common affliction that often comes right along with shin splints, that is swelling and/or pain in the posterior tibialis muscle that aids you in motions such as pulling your foot inward or downwards.  

A Few Common Causes

Shin splints are probably some of the most irritating words among runners and athletes. This is because shin splints are very common in runners or any athlete that changes the amount they work their lower legs. In runners it is a very common problem for runners that are just getting into the sport, however, it is also quite common in runners who change the distance they are running without properly working up to it.

Shin splints are usually the result of overworking the tendons, bone tissue, and muscles in the front and back of the lower leg. So, if you were to jump from running short distances straight into long distance running or marathon training you would be risking overworking those muscles that are afflicted with shin splints. Avoiding this injury is just another reason to make sure that you are properly scaling up your distance or frequency of your workouts or runs.

Pain in your lower leg and shin area does not always mean you have shin splints, it could be something as simple as soreness in the muscle. It could also be a sign of a far more serious injury than shin splints, it may be a symptom of something like a stress fracture. You would most likely need a bone scan to be sure. Because of the other possible problems that pain in your shins could be, in most cases, you should almost always seek a doctor’s opinion or diagnosis.

Preventing Future Attacks

After you have experienced shin splints just once, you will more than likely be pretty keen on doing things to prevent further shin injuries. You could try wearing lower leg sleeves when you train, there are some specifically made to aid in treating and avoiding shin splints. Also, after training or running you should be sure to take the time to stretch and properly cool down, this may help reduce the risk of you having to fight off another attack from shin splints. Make sure that you are always getting enough rest before and after a run or workout, rest is important because it allows the body and muscles to repair themselves and it could help lower your chances of having this dreaded injury again.

See Dr. Ben Shatto’s post on How to Prevent and Self-Treat Shin Splints

-By Joe Flemming

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