Shin splints are a common injury that can occur when there is too much force placed on the shinbone or the connective tissue around it. This can happen when you participate in activities that involve repetitive impact on your feet and legs, such as running, dancing, or playing tennis.
Shin splints usually occur in the lower leg, just below the knee. The pain can range from mild to severe and is often worse when you exercise.
There are several different types of shin splints, but the most common is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), which affects the inner side of the shinbone. MTSS is usually caused by the overuse of the muscles and tendons that attach to the shinbone. This can happen when you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your physical activity or if you participate in activities that place a lot of stress on your leg muscles and bones, such as running on hard surfaces.
The most common symptom of shin splints is pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, which is worse with activity. You may also notice swelling, tenderness, or redness in the affected area. If you have shin splints, you may also experience pain in the calf, ankle, or foot.
If you think you may have shin splints, it is important to see a doctor or other healthcare provider. They can diagnose shin splints with a physical examination and by asking about your symptoms and medical history. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans, may also be ordered to rule out other causes of your pain, such as a stress fracture.
Risk factors for shin splints include:
- Participation in high-impact activities, such as running, basketball, or tennis
- Running on hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt
- Poorly cushioned shoes that do not provide adequate shock absorption
- Weakness in the muscles and tendons around the shinbone
- Poor form when participating in physical activity
Treatment for shin splints usually involves a combination of rest, ice, and physical therapy. You may also be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles and tendons around the shinbone and improve your flexibility.
To prevent shin splints, it is important to warm up before participating in physical activity and to cool down afterwards. Stretch your muscles and tendons regularly, and wear shoes that provide adequate support and shock absorption. If you are new to a certain activity, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.