Shin Splints: Periostitis

Many of us have heard the term shin splints but are unsure as to what it really means. Often, the term shin splints is used to describe pain that is experienced at the front of the lower leg; yet the pain originates from inside of the shin bone located at the front of the leg. Individuals who enjoy running, whether professionally or for leisure, tend to experience the pain of shin splints sooner or later more so than other people.

Causes Of Shin Splints

Shin splints are an overuse injury that is also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, or MTSS. Many athletes who experience shins splints tend to describe an exercise history that includes rapid increases in intensity or duration of impact activities. The most common cause of shin splints is actually repeated trauma to the muscles or bones.

Other causes of shin splints include:

  • Overuse of the legs, resulting in irritated, swollen muscles.
  • Muscle imbalance that can result from an injury.
  • Stress fractures of bones in the lower leg.
  • The condition called ''flat feet", where the arches of the feet have collapsed (upon impact with) the ground there is a major stretching of muscles and tendons).
  • Abnormal tightness of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.

Symptoms Of Shin Splints

The following are symptoms of shin splints:

  • Pain around the shinbone (tibia), just below the knee.
  • This pain is often 10 to 15 cm in length.
  • Shin splints are often experienced early on during a workout. It commonly decreases well into the session, only to be felt more intensely at the end and after the workout.
  • The discomfort is often characterized as a dull, aching sort of pain.
  • With extreme cases the swollen muscles can result in irritation of the feet, leading to weakness and even numbness.

Treatment Of Shin Splints

One thing to keep in mind with shin splints is that it is very important to be in the care of a qualified health professional to ensure proper healing. There are two main types of treatment: complete rest and relative rest. Complete rest is completely resting the affected leg so that your body can heal itself, without any physical activities. While effective, this option may not be palatable to some people (e.g. athletes in training). As a result some therapies involve both rest and light physical activities.

The following are treatments commonly used to treat shin splints:

  • Rest of the affected leg.
  • Icing of the affected shin to reduce any swelling and pain.
  • Use of custom orthotics to correct for any gait irregularities.
  • Wrapping a tensor bandage around the affected area.
  • Gentle stretching of the calf and front leg (tibialis) muscles.
  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers (e.g. ibuprofen or aspirin) to reduce swelling and pain. Note that these anti-inflammatory medications can have serious side affects, and should only be prescribed by a doctor.
  • Very occasionally surgery may be required to address an issue that constantly results in shin splints.

Shin splints can result in discomfort and in severe cases debilitating pain, disrupting your routine and enjoyment of life.

Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has the necessary knowledge and expertise to help you recover from shin splints. Our professionals can recommend the type of treatment needed and effectively implement that treatment, getting you back on to your normal routines as fast as possible!

March 10, 2014

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