Shin splints when walking or running – and how to treat them

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Shutterstock.com/ Dmytro Panchenko

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, can occur when walking or running. This is a painful condition that happens along the large bone in the front of the leg. Often athletes who have recently changed their routine are the ones to develop shin splints, but dancers and military recruits are also common candidates.

What are shin splints?

Shin splints are felt in the lower part of the leg between the knee and ankle. Symptoms such as muscle pain along the inner part of the lower leg, mild swelling, shin pain and even numbness or weakness in the feet are all commonly felt by those who have medial tibial stress syndrome.

Generally shin splints happen to athletes or those who participate in moderate to heavy physical activity. Racquetball, soccer, running and tennis are four common activities where shin splints can occur. If shin splints develop, participating in these activities can be too painful for many people. Treatment is usually needed before resuming any kind of extreme physical exertion.

Essentially, shin stints is a stress disorder. The repetitive motion created when using that area of the leg adds pressure to the bones, joints and muscles. Because of this pressure, the body is not easily able to repair itself.

What are the causes of shin splints?

Despite the physical activity, the actual pain associated with shin splints is from excessive force placed on the shin bone. When the muscles swell, the pressure is then intensified and can lead to inflammation, furthering the pain.

In addition to physical exertion, shin splints can result from bone fractures. A bone fracture is just another name for having a broken bone. The severity can range from a single crack to a massive break. When a bone is under too much pressure, a break can occur anywhere in the body. Without enough rest for the body to restore itself, even single cracks can turn into a complete stress fracture.

Who is most likely to experience shin splints?

Athletes are at a higher risk for developing shin splints because of the possible repetitive pressure placed on their lower legs. In addition to dancers, runners and sports players, there are plenty of others who are at risk for this painful condition.

Those who suffer from flat feet may be more likely to experience shin splints. Over exertion with an anatomical abnormality can lead to physical pain over time. People who tend to have muscle weakness in either their thighs or buttocks are also at risk.

To help prevent shin splints from happening, it’s best to stay as physically flexible as possible. Learning how to safely run down hills can also make a difference. Its best to avoid excessively hard surfaces like concrete when running and to make sure you have on proper running shoes that are designed for working out.

Treating shin splints

If you already have shin splints, there are successful methods of treatment. Since they are not permanent, its best to let the body recover. Allowing for ample rest is recommended as well as ice and elevation for the leg. If continuing to exercise, try a low-impact workout like gentle swimming. To heal in a quick and efficient manner, listening to your body is key.