Are you suspicious that you may have shin splints but aren’t entirely sure what the signs are? This condition, also called medial tibial stress syndrome, can affect athletes and non-athletes alike.
Shin splints develop after exercise and other physical activity. They’re triggered by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the shinbone, or tibia.
This inflammation is caused by repetitive stress, and certain activities can increase your risk of getting shin splints, such as:
- Increasing the intensity or duration of a sport or training plan too quickly
- Not wearing supportive shoes
- Playing sports or running on hard surfaces
- Starting a new sport or training plan
- Uneven or hilly terrain during running
- Having poor running form
- Having a pre-existing ankle or foot condition
- Having tight calf muscles or flat feet
- Being a professional dancer
Our board-certified podiatrists at Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers have years of experience diagnosing and treating shin splints, and we want you to be aware of the top telltale signs of this uncomfortable condition.
A dull ache along the front of your lower leg is the most common sign of shin splints, but it’s not the only one. Here are the telltale signs to look out for regarding shin splints:
Pain or discomfort in your shins and legs
This pain might develop or worsen during or after physical activity, especially running or walking for extended periods. You may also experience pain if you push on your shins and along the inner part of your lower leg and muscle pain in your lower leg.
Swelling in your lower leg
If you notice your lower leg is swollen, you may be experiencing shin splints. The inflamed muscles, tendons, and bone tissue can lead to swelling and pain.
Weakness or numbness in your feet
Your feet may begin to lose sensation or be weaker when shin splints are present. Be sure to stop any exercise immediately if you cannot feel your feet.
These different signs will be different for different people. Some people may only experience mild pain or discomfort, and others may experience pain so great they can’t continue exercising.
In mild cases, rest can help reduce the pain, but in severe cases, you may experience pain in your shins even when you aren’t standing.
If you are experiencing any of these signs of shin splints, seeing a provider like one of our podiatrists at Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers is important. Some of these symptoms overlap with other lower leg conditions, and your provider can diagnose your symptoms accurately.
Treating shin splints
Your Arlington/Mansfield provider diagnoses the cause of your pain by evaluating your gait and performing a physical exam of your feet, ankles, and lower leg. They may order an X-ray or other imaging study.
Once they have diagnosed the cause of your pain, they create a customized treatment plan for you. Treatment for shin splints usually begins by temporarily stopping the activity that may have caused the condition.
Even though you’ll need to stop that activity while you heal, you can swap your high-impact activity with a low- or no-impact alternative, like swimming or yoga. Resting your legs is important, but your Arlington/Mansfield provider may recommend other treatments, such as:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications
- Foam roller to massage your lower leg
- Stretching exercises to loosen calf muscles
- Icing the shins 3-4 times a day
- Wearing compression bandages
- Switching to supportive shoes to prevent further damage
- Orthotics from your doctor to ease stress and help with stability
Usually, shin splints don’t require surgery. However, in some extreme cases, shin splints may not respond to other treatments, and your provider may recommend a surgical procedure to end your pain and prevent future shin splints.
If you think you may have shin splints or just want to learn more, we can help. Schedule an appointment online or over the phone at the Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers office nearest you.