The lower leg, between your knee and ankle, is made up of two bones: the tibia and the fibula. The tibia, more commonly known as the shin bone, is connected to the fibula through joints, muscles, and connective tissue.
Shin splints are otherwise known as medial or lateral tibial stress syndrome. This condition causes an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the tibia. Pain with shin splints is often felt along the inner or outer edge of the shin bone.
This injury is often grouped in with other types of “overuse injuries.” When your body isn’t given enough time or training to adapt to the stresses of activities like running, the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the tibia can become inflamed and painful. This can happen from overtraining or increasing running distance too quickly. Improper footwear or foot alignment may also predispose someone to developing shin splints.
To receive a diagnosis, a qualified healthcare professional in musculoskeletal disorders will perform an examination. They will look to reproduce the pain in your shin, as well as examine foot alignment, footwear, and walking. Questions about activities and symptom history will help to rule out other diagnoses associated with the shin such as a stress fracture.
This condition is usually treated non-surgically. The first step towards healing is to rest from the activities that cause pain. Using anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or aspirin can help to reduce swelling and pain. Using ice and cold packs several times a day can also help.
Treatment may also include wearing proper supportive shoes and making sure the shoes are the correct fit. You may be fit for an orthotic if the shape of your foot requires more support to stabilize and relieve stress on other joints. There are a variety of types of orthotics; some may be purchased off the shelf, while others are custom made. In addition, wearing compression stockings can help to prevent swelling.
To prevent shin splints from recurring, make sure to slowly introduce new activities, build slowly to new distances (two to five miles per week) and make sure footwear is in proper shape.