Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints refer to pain that is felt along the inner edge of your shinbone, or tibia. Usually, the pain is concentrated in the lower leg between the ankle and the knee.
Shin splints are a fairly frequent occurrence for people who regularly engage in moderate-to-heavy physical activity. They are particularly common in runners, dancers, and military trainees.
Shin Splint Causes
Shin splints are primarily caused by too much force on the shin bone and connective tissues that attach the bone to the surrounding muscle. This excessive force can be caused by:
- Running on a slanted surface or uneven terrain
- Participating in sports that have sudden starts and stops
- Using inappropriate shoes for working out or running
However, there are other potential causes of shin splints. These include:
- Lack of flexibility
- Muscle weakness in the thighs or buttocks
- Improper training techniques
- An anatomical abnormality
Shin Splint Risk Factors
There are certain things that can increase your risk for developing shin splints. These include:
- You have flat feet or high arches
- You play sports on hard surfaces, with many sudden stops and starts
- You’re a runner, especially a new one
- You run on uneven terrain
- You’re in military training
- You’re a dancer
Shin Splint Diagnosis
The diagnosis process for shin splints is fairly simple. Your doctor will typically be able to diagnose you with shin splints after a physical exam. This will include asking you about the types of physical activity you have participated in recently and how often you are physically active. An X-ray or other imaging test may be ordered, but only if your doctor suspects there might be some kind of damage such as a bone fracture.
Shin splints are usually a minor injury that will improve quickly with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if you do not give your body time to recover from shin splints, then the constant pounding can cause minute cracks in the bones of the leg. Though your body is usually able to heal these cracks on its own, it needs time to rest in order to heal. If you don’t give yourself time off from activity to heal, then the tiny cracks can result in a complete fracture or a stress fracture, which will take much more time to heal and recover from.