Common Causes of Shin Splints

Pain and discomfort are your body’s way of drawing attention to a problematic area. If you’re experiencing a dull or throbbing ache along the inside of your shins, you may have a condition called medial tibial stress syndrome — more commonly referred to as shin splints

At Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers, our experienced board-certified podiatrists treat many conditions that affect your feet, ankles, and legs — including troublesome shin splints. Both athletes and non-athletes can develop shin splints, and if you suspect you have them or if you want to avoid them, keep reading to learn some common causes and the treatments available.    

What are shin splints? 

Shin splints usually develop after exercise or other physical activity. The name of the condition refers to the pain associated with it along your shinbone, or tibia. Inflammation of the tendons, muscles, and bone tissue in and around the tibia causes this pain.  

The most common symptom of shin splints is a dull ache along the front part of your lower leg. Other signs you may shin splints include:

The pain associated with shin splints varies. For some people, it may cause only mild pain or discomfort. For others, the pain may be so great that you can’t continue exercising or with the physical activity you’re engaged in. In mild cases, the pain may go away when you rest. In more severe cases, your shins may hurt even when you’re off your feet.  

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of shin splints, it’s important to see a provider who specializes in the condition, like the team at Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers, as they may share similarities with other lower leg conditions. 

What causes shin splints? 

Repetitive stress (overuse) on your shinbone and the connective tissues surrounding it that attach your bone and muscle causes shin splints. While anyone engaged in an activity that results in this stress is at risk, certain factors increase the chances you’ll develop shin splints, including:

Having flat feet also increases your risk of developing shin splints as does being a professional dancer. 

How are shin splints treated?

Before beginning a customized treatment plan, your Arlington/Mansfield provider first accurately diagnoses the cause of your pain. They may evaluate your gait and perform a physical exam of your feet, ankles, and lower leg. Your provider may also order an X-ray or other imaging study to rule out a fracture as the cause of your pain. 

Because shin splints develop due to repetitive stress or overuse, treatment typically begins by taking a break from the activity linked to the condition. This doesn’t mean you have to sit home! You can replace your high-impact activity with a low- or no-impact one, like swimming. 

In addition to resting your legs, your Arlington/Mansfield provider may recommend additional therapies, including:

Surgery is not typically required for shin splints, but in extremely severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to relieve your pain and help prevent shin splints from developing in the future. 

Learn more about shin splints and how to avoid them by contacting the Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers office nearest you. You can call the office to schedule or request an appointment online at your convenience.

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