Shin Splints - Everything You Need To Know
Shin splints account for about 10 to 15 percent of all running injuries. It has also been found that up to 60 percent of all conditions that cause leg pain in athletes have been contributed to by shin splints.
What Are Shin Splints?
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, also more commonly known as shin splints, is a common exercise-related injury. Shin splints are characterized by acute pain along the tibia (shin bone), typically along the inner edge where the muscle attaches to the bone. Shin splints occur when the tendons and muscles around the shin bone become inflamed.
Shin splints are also known as a cumulative stress disorder, where the muscles, bones, and connective tissues become overworked over time. Excessive force of high-impact activities leads the muscles to swell, which exerts more pressure on the shin bone. The increased pressure is what causes the pain and inflammation associated with shin splints.
Who Gets Shin Splints?
Shin splints are common in athletes and people who are involved in moderate to intense physical activities. Shin splints often occur in runners and dancers, military recruits, as well as individuals who participate in activities like basketball, soccer, or tennis. Athletes who play sports on turf are also prone to shin splints.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Any activity that is characterized by a repeated pounding motion of the legs and feet creates a strain on the bones and muscles of the lower body. Sudden changes in intensity, frequency, or duration of physical activity is often the cause of shin splints. When the body is not familiar with the stress of a high impact activity, inflammation can occur and become extremely painful. Other factors that can contribute to getting shin splints:
- Repetitive activities while running or jumping especially on hard surfaces - Sports such as volleyball, basketball where impact on the legs and feet are common.
- Doing too much of a repetitive exercise too soon - Shin Splints are common in the running community especially for runners that train on pavement.
- Excessive pronation or supination - Foot, ankle, or knee misalignment can all contribute to the development of shin splints. These anomalies can force the attachments of the calf to the shin to overwork causing pain. An insufficient foot puts more load on the structures above it so in a pronated individual the tendons and muscles above the foot are placed at a mechanical disadvantage and are overworked.
- Running on inclines or declines - Activities such as running on inclines or declines force the tendons in the front of the leg to overwork in dorsiflexion (toes pointed up)
- Unsupportive or worn-out footwear - A widely accepted rule of thumb regarding when footwear should be replaced is 500 miles. For example, if a runner runs 10 miles a week, they should replace their shoes once a year. Running shoes tend to lose support and cushioning after this point. Another good safeguard against injury is to alternate your shoes daily, never wear the same pair every day for every run. Changing your shoes out also gives them a chance to dry out in between runs.
- Poor training form - Many times, poor running form can contribute to the development of shin splints. If your stride pattern causes your feet to cross the midline when running (negative base of gait) or have a longer stride length, you could be at risk.
- Participating in sports with frequent stops or starts - Many sports that require quick lateral moves or sudden deceleration can exacerbate shin problems such as basketball or tennis can add stress to the shin area.
What Are The Symptoms of Shin Splints?
The pain of shin splints is localized in the front of the leg, between the knee and ankle. The main symptoms of shin splints include:
- Pain along the inner and outer shin area, especially when running or walking on inclines
- Either stabbing, shooting pains or a dull aching in the shin area
- Pain in the shin that increases during exercise
- Mild swelling in the front, lower leg
- Shin pain that is sore to the touch
- Tenderness that lasts in the shin after ceasing physical activity
What Are The Treatments for Shin Splints?
The RICE Method is a common approach to treating injuries at home and may help heal shin splints. RICE stands for:
- Rest - Rest from all activities that cause you pain, swelling, or discomfort. Active rest is usually fine for shin splints, but you should see a doctor if you think you have a more serious injury. Try low-impact activities like swimming until your pain subsides.
- Ice - Place ice packs on your shins for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Wrap them in a towel and don’t place ice directly on your skin. Ice four to eight times a day for several days until shin splint pain subsides.
- Compression - Try wearing a calf compression sleeve to help reduce inflammation around your shins.
- Elevation - When you’re icing your shins, try elevating them on a pillow or chair to further reduce inflammation.
Can I Still Exercise If I Have Shin Splints?
While resting your shins, you may still be able to do some exercise. If you’re a runner, you may be able to safely continue running, but you’ll want to decrease distance and frequency. You should also decrease running intensity by about 50% and avoid hills, uneven surfaces, and hard surfaces, like cement. If you have access to one, running on a treadmill may be a safer option. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, pool running, or biking until your pain subsides may also help.
What Happens If I Don't Treat My Shin Splints?
Untreated shin splints may result in tibial stress fractures. A tibial stress fracture is a hairline fracture of the tibia bone in the lower leg caused by overuse or repetitive stress. Symptoms are very similar to ‘shin splints’ with gradual onset pain on the inside of the shin.
Tibial stress fractures are normally caused by overtraining or overuse. Individuals suffering from a tibial stress fracture typically feel an aching or burning (localized) pain somewhere along the bone possibly with swelling. The pain may progressively get worse as more weight is placed on it, eventually hurting while walking or even when not putting any weight on it at all. Instability of the leg and occasional loss of feeling in the foot can also be present.
In some cases, the signs of a stress fracture may not show up on an X-ray for as long as four or five weeks - or may never show up. It is not uncommon for other forms of imaging, including bone scans, CT scans and MRI to be ordered if your provider suspects there is a fracture present, but not visible on X-ray.
When surgery is not required, it usually it takes 8 to 10 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. More serious stress fractures can take longer. Although it can be hard to slow down with a tibial stress fracture, going back to activity - “too much, too soon” - can put you at risk for a larger, harder-to-heal fracture, requiring more down time or even surgery.
Are There Exercises Or Stretches That I Can Do For Shin Splints?
Yes! Stretching and strengthening the muscles and tendons of the lower leg can help the pain of shin splints.
Tibialis Anterior (Shin muscle) Stretch
Achilles Tendon Stretch
Tibialis Anterior Strengthening
Carbon Fiber Plate Technology for Shin Splints
At the forefront of carbon fiber insole technology is VKTRY Performance Insoles. “VKs” stabilize the midfoot and support the longitudinal arch by providing a stable base and limiting pronation, two conditions normally present with shin splints.
Due to its patented design (multiple layers of carbon fiber), VKs are rigid under the midfoot and flexible at the heel and toe. VKs are most rigid under the midfoot thereby providing structure and support to the all-important calcaneal/navicular and calcaneal/cuboid joints as well as mid-tarsal, (Lisfranc) joints. Moving away from the midfoot, VKs become more flexible. By being semi-flexible at the heel and toe, VKs absorb shock at heel strike as well as upon landing reducing the stress and strain on shin.
During the gait cycle, VKs absorb shock in phase one of gait (heel strike) by resisting the ground and deflecting. This attenuates shock in the sagittal plane, much like landing on a springboard and slowing the athlete down efficiently. This absorption of shock provides added protection from shin splints by forming a springboard effect for the foot and lower leg.
In the second phase of gait (midstance), VKs absorb shock and provide a pre-load, assisting the foot in storing energy and preparing for stage three.
During the third stage of gait (heel off), VKs store the energy generated during heel strike and midstance at the metatarsals in preparation for the propulsive stage.
During stage four (toe-off), VKs release the potential energy stored in the first three stages directly into the ground, greatly increasing the amount and rate of plantarflexion.
By design, VKTRY Insoles increase the rate of plantarflexion by storing energy at heel off and releasing it explosively at toe off. VKs increase the amount of ground force that an athlete can generate. Standard, passive insoles serve only to support and cushion the athlete but in addition to that, VKs also return stored energy; thereby reducing the stress on tendons and ligaments above the foot.
VKTRY Insoles have been successful in helping athletes with injuries, as evidenced by field research, clinical studies and in thousands of customer testimonials. However, when it comes to health care, all people and all injuries are not alike. VKTRY always recommends that you consult your physician when considering treatments of an injury. And VKTRY offers a 90-day money back guarantee, so if the product is not helping a person in recovery, VKTRY provides a no questions asked refund. For more information, please click the button below.