Shin splints are pain felt anywhere along the shinbone, most commonly seen in runners. They typically result from overuse but can be treated fairly easily. If your lower legs hurt on impact when you walk or run, you may have shin splints. However, shin pain does not automatically mean that you have shin splints. If the pain is severe or the shin splints are persistent, you could need treatment from a doctor and/or physical therapist.
Here is what you need to know about common symptoms and causes of shin splints, as well as what you can do if you have them.
Symptoms Of Shin Splints
Shin splints be either intense or more mild. You may have anterior shin splints, when the pain is more towards the front of your leg, or posterior shin splints, when the pain is more towards the back of your leg.
Common symptoms include:
- Painful or tender to the touch
- Sharp pain or dull ache on the inside of the tibia during physical activities
- Slight swelling around the inside of the lower leg in more severe cases
If you have continuous pain even when you are resting, be sure to seek out treatment. Left untreated, shin splints can lead to stress fractures. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone, often caused by overload. The pain continues even when you are resting. Left untreated, they can cause chronic problems.
Bruising on your shins is uncommon. Such bruising can more commonly result from a direct blow to your shins, as well as from compartment syndrome.
Shin splints are caused by inflammation of your muscles, tendons, and connective tissue as a result of overuse. This can happen when you jump into a new exercise, like running, without pacing yourself properly. If you change something in your routine without giving your body enough time to adapt, this can cause undue stress. They can also occur if you don’t give your body enough time to rest and recover between training sessions.
You can also get them from wearing the wrong shoes. You need shoes that give you support for the specific type of exercise you’re doing. It’s important to replace your shoes as needed, as worn-out shoes won’t give you the support they once could.
Your foot’s shape and the type of stride you have can increase your risk of shin splints. People with flat feet or high arches are at higher risk, as are those who overstride.
While it’s rare to get shin splints from walking, it can happen, if you either are new to it, have changed your routine, or do not have the proper footwear.
Can Shin Splints Get Worse?
Shin splints can absolutely get worse. They can worsen into stress fractures. If rest, ice, and over-the-counter painkillers don’t resolve the issue, seek medical treatment. You also want to seek medical advice when using painkillers, as they could have adverse effects if used improperly.
Can Shin Splints Heal On Their Own?
Your shin splints may be able to heal on their own with enough rest. You can also use at-home treatment methods such as ice packs and wearing compression socks to reduce the pain.
While healing from shin splints, you could still do activities that don’t put pressure on your shins, such as swimming. You’ll know your shin splints are healed when you have no pain when pushing on your shin or doing various exercises like running or jumping. Your injured leg should feel just as strong and flexible as your other leg.
It is important to remember that how long it takes to heal from shin splints depends on what caused them, as well as what your personal healing rate is like. It may take a few weeks to a few months to recover.
If the pain returns, stop exercising right away to prevent further injury. While shin splints typically aren’t serious, they can become serious and lead to more serious injuries if ignored. You may need help in your recovery from a physical therapist, who will be able to provide you with a personalized treatment plan.
How To Prevent Shin Splints
You can save yourself pain while maintaining an active lifestyle with the following tips.
- Use the appropriate shoes. You can get fitted for running or walking shoes that suit your needs.
- Replace worn-out shoes. Maybe they once worked wonders, but all good things come to an end sooner or later.
- Try arch supports or insoles. These can decrease the shock on your shins.
- Give yourself time to adjust. If you’ve never been one for running, don’t try to run 3 miles every day. Build up to it gradually, and ask for guidance as needed. Your body will thank you.
- Give yourself time to rest. Rest is essential for bodies to recover and come back stronger than ever.
- Cross-train. This improves the health and fitness of your body as a whole, while also preventing overuse of your shins. Strength training is excellent for stabilization.
- Warm-up. Don’t forget to warm up before any workout to prevent injury!
- Stretch. Stretching improves your body’s mobility, decreasing your risk of injury.
- Seek treatment as needed. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor and/or physical therapist if you are concerned about shin splints. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely the problem is to escalate.
What To Do If Your Shin Splints Won’t Go Away
If your shin splints won’t go away, it’s possible that you aren’t giving yourself enough of a break. You could need more guidance on stretches and exercises that you can do to strengthen and support your leg. It could also be because you have a more serious injury, like a stress fracture.
Seeking out professional treatment is the best course of action if your shin splints won’t go away or if the pain becomes severe. Your doctor will examine your lower leg and order any necessary tests in order to diagnose you. Stress fractures, tendinitis, and compartment syndrome are several other conditions that can cause shin pain. Once they’ve diagnosed you, they will be able to come up with recommendations for your treatment.
The physical therapists here at Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy are here to help you recover from your shin pain. Contact us today for more information about our services and how we can help you on your path to recovery.