The term shin splints sparks fear into the hearts of any runner who hears it. A painful condition of the shins, the condition often requires prolonged rest to resolve it. But it isn’t just runners who are affected. If you walk, jump or dance it can affect you too. So, what exactly are shin splints? What cases them and what can you do to prevent and treat them?
Award-winning author and running health expert Dr Juliet McGrattan gives us the run down on this troublesome condition including shin splints causes, symptoms and treatment options:
What are shin splints?
Shin splints is the name given to exercise-related pain and tenderness in the front of the lower legs. It can affect one or both legs. It’s also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). The tibia is the name of the larger of the lower leg bones and the medial (inner) side is where the pain is usually felt.
Shin splints is a common condition which often stops you exercising for weeks at a time. It’s important to differentiate shin splints from stress fractures. There are no breaks or cracks of the bone in shin splints. It’s thought that if ignored, shin splints can progress to stress fractures although stress fractures can occur independently without shin splints.
What causes shin splints?
Despite medical advances and scanning techniques, we still don’t really know exactly what causes shin splints. Exercise places stress on the shins, hence the name MTSS. This causes changes in the tissues of the front lower legs but it’s unclear exactly what happens. One theory is that the repetitive and forceful tugging of muscles and tendons on the outer layer of the bone causes bleeding and inflammation which results in pain.
Shin splint risk factors
Anyone who does repetitive or prolonged exercise can get shin splints but they’re most common in runners, long distance walkers and jumpers.
You’re at particular risk of shin splints if:
- You are overweight
- You are new to exercise
- You increase your distance quickly
- You don’t allow enough recovery time after exercise
- You are a woman
- You run on hard or uneven surfaces
- You have flat feet
- You’ve had shin splints before
Shin splint symptoms
Pain from shin splints can be felt anywhere on the front lower leg from the knee to the ankle, typically on the lower, inside border of the shin bone.
Pain starts during exercise, throbs afterwards and eases with rest, however, it can progress to being a continuous pain.
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