What are Shin Splints?

07 Nov What are Shin Splints?

What Are Shin Splints?

You’ve finally found an exercise you enjoy, and you’re working out every day. Everything’s going great until the day you suddenly feel sharp, crippling pains shooting through the fronts of your legs.

A Common Complaint

We’ve all felt the throbbing, burning pain of shin splints. More than 4 million people each year complain to their doctors about shin splints.

They’re more likely to happen if you recently increased your level of exercise. Dancers, hikers, marathon runners and figure skaters have all experienced them.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live with the pain of shin splints.


Image of Orthotics for hiking boots from Shuman Podiatry in Sterling VA


What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints result from excessive pressure on your shinbone and its connective ligaments. You can experience them any time you increase the intensity or duration of your physical activity. Most people feel them in the first two weeks after they start a new exercise program.

Other Risk Factors

You’re also more likely to develop them if you:

  • Have flat feet or weak arches.
  • Wear loose, floppy shoes.
  • Have weak ankles or a weak core.
  • Work out without stretching afterward.

What Can You Do About Shin Splints?

Many people mistakenly think that shin splints will go away if they keep on exercising. Don’t make that mistake.

Take a Rest

Since exertion causes most shin splints, the obvious treatment for them is to rest – think RICE.

Stop Exercising and Start Stretching

Stop all exercise until your shin splints stop hurting. This generally takes about three days. You can use ice packs if the pain and swelling are severe.

In the meantime, perform gentle stretching exercises to keep your ligaments flexible. Your podiatrist can help you create a good stretching routine. You should do your stretching routine daily while your shins are healing.

Consider Alternative Exercises

Although the pain of shin splints fades after a few days of rest, it takes several months for your shinbones and ligaments to fully heal.

If you don’t want to give up on physical activity while waiting for your shins to heal, consider other forms of exercise. Riding a stationary bike, swimming, seated resistance work and yoga are no-impact forms of exercise that won’t stress your shinbone.

Start Slowly

When you go back to your regular routine, start slowly. Be sure to warm up your muscles before every workout. Build up the duration and intensity of your exercise gradually. Cool down and stretch thoroughly after every workout.


orthotics for spinning shoes - Shuman Podiatry Sterling VA


How a Podiatrist Can Help

If your shin splints are interfering with your workouts or your daily activities, talk to a podiatrist. You might need to tweak your routine or get some additional support. A foot care professional can:

  • Prescribe anti-inflammatories for the pain and swelling.
  • Create custom orthotics for arch support and cushioning.
  • Diagnose a more serious condition.

Other Causes of Shin Pain

If you’re concerned about shin splint pain that’s intense or doesn’t clear up in a few days, contact foot care professional. You’ll need a doctor to diagnose a more serious condition like these.

Compartment syndrome: Characterized by pain on the outer side of your lower leg, this is caused when the muscles swell under the skin. The swelling causes pressure and a feeling of tightness. If you feel muscle weakness and a tingling sensation in your leg, you might be experiencing compartment syndrome.

Shin fracture: A stress fracture or bone fracture are also a cause of shin pain. A fracture is an emergency situation that requires immediate medical attention. If your shin pain seems to go away at night and come back in the morning, that could be a sign that you have a stress fracture. You should contact a podiatrist to have a diagnostic bone scan done.

Call Your Loudoun County Sports Medicine Specialist

If you’re experiencing shin splints or any sports-related foot problems, contact Shuman Podiatry & Sports Medicine. We’re your caring, local experts in all things related to foot, ankle and leg health.

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