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Shin Splints: Causes and Treatment. How Orthotics Can Assist

If you are into sports, it is likely that you are already used to the muscle aches and occasional pain in the legs, heels, toes, back, and pretty much every other muscle that is used in the exercise. Sometimes the pain lasts a few minutes, other times it lingers for months. While painful muscles may be caused by something as simple as walking on a pebble and the pain does not last long, there is need to get a check up and remedial services.

What Are Shin Splints?

One of the most common causes of limb pain in sportspeople is shin splints. This is a dull ache to an acute pain that occurs on the lower leg (between the knee and the ankle). In most cases, people experience the pain in both legs and it worsens with continued use of the feet (such as running, dancing, walking etc). The pain is as a result of inflammation caused by overuse or weakening of the connective tissue around the tibia (shinbone).

What Causes Shin Splints?

This condition is prevalent in people who have taken up a new sport, or are involved in such activities as running, dancing, football, race walking, lacrosse and the like. The pain is manifested when there is an imbalance between the anterior and the posterior periosteum (the tissue that surrounds the tibia). When the periosteum is overused, it pulls away from the tibia, causing inflammation. The pain can manifest in the front part of the leg (Anterior tibial stress), or at the back, (posterior tibial stress)

While it is impossible to point at one exact cause of shin splints (also known as Tibial Stress Syndrome), there are some factors that can contribute to this inflammation. They include the following: 


Foot Structural Imbalance

Such foot conditions as pronation or supination, if left uncorrected) can strain the leg muscles, causing inflammation. In order to prevent this, shoe inserts can be used to correct the structural problems.


Exercising On Hard Surfaces

It is important to always have your feet adequately cushioned when going out for a run or walk. Only use comfortable, well fitting shoes to avoid hurting your feet every tine they hit the hard pavement or running track


Muscle Overuse

Whatever you do, don’t strain yourself too much. Overuse of muscles can be caused by too much running, walking, dancing etc. It is also common to find shin splints in people who have just taken up a new sports hobby.


Change in Training Regimen

If you are used to running on flat surfaces such as the gym machine and you decide you want to go for a run on the community sports track or up the hills, chances are the feet will experience some stress. You may need to take it slow until your feet adapt to the new surface.

It is important to note that shin splints are very serious. If left unattended, they can cause stress fractures or small cracks on the tibia. Therefore, if you experience even the slightest pain in your feet, it is important to consult a doctor immediately.

How to Prevent Shin Splints

There are a few things you can do to prevent the occurrence of shin splints. 

Progress gradually with a new activity

Do thorough warm-ups before starting any sport

Use proper footwear

Use corrective devices in case of feet structural problems

Cross-train low impact and high impact sports

Train on softer surfaces

Avoid making abrupt changes to the training regimen and surfaces

Do not overindulge in the exercises

What to Do If You Have Shin Splints

For those who never tried any preventive measures, you may need to learn how to treat shin splints at some point in your sports career/hobby. If you already have shin splints, there are a few things that you can do to relieve the pain temporarily and to correct the injuries. The treatment is well summarized into RICE, which stands for adequate rest, using icepacks, compression and elevating the feet. If these home remedies don’t work, you can use anti-inflammatory medication. 

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Exotic extracorporeal shock wave treatment

Foot orthotics to correct structural imbalance

Ice packs on the feet immediately after a workout

Heating pads to warm the feet before the workout

Training changes; rest, reduced activities and cross-training

In Conclusion

Shin splints are common with runners, dancers, race walkers and anyone involved in foot sports. They can be extremely painful and even immobilizing if left unattended. If you suspect that you are suffering from this condition, it is important to see a doctor and determine the exact irritant to the perioteum tissue. You may get some medication, shoe inserts, or even go for a surgery depending on the severity of the splints. Other remedies such as heating pads and ice therapy can help relieve the pain.

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