Shin splints, or pain along the shin bone, can be frustrating.  Runners are particularly at risk, especially as they increase their mileage.  Other athletes that participate in a lot of sprinting and jumping activities are also susceptible.  Shin splints are an overuse injury.  They are most commonly caused by microscopic tears in the tissue directly over the bone (periosteum) or the muscle tearing away from the bone.

Symptoms:

  • Pain on the front/inside of the lower leg bone (tibia)
  • Pain is usually worst when beginning exercise, gets better, but then worsens again as the activity continues
  • If you experience significant leg swelling in a short period of time, seek medical attention immediately, as it could be a sign of a serious condition such as a blood clot or compartment syndrome.

Diagnosis:

Your podiatrist will ask you questions about your symptoms and examine your foot and lower leg.  He or she may order x-rays or other studies to rule out more serious conditions, such as a tibial stress fracture or compartment syndrome.

Treatment:

Shin splints are an overuse injury, so the first line of treatment is REST.

– Rest: Decrease or stop your activity levels until symptoms improve

– Ice and oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can decrease pain and swelling.

– Compression: Compression stockings can add support, decrease swelling, and keep your muscles warm

– Shoes: Replace old worn out shoes with a more supportive pair

– Orthotics, or custom shoe inserts, can play a role in decreasing your symptoms by improving your foot alignment and function.

– Stretch: Tight calf muscles can contribute to shin splints, so make sure to stretch it out.

– Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen your lower leg and foot muscles. He or she may also show you special taping methods to add extra support.