No, Shin splints are not bamboo rods that are fastened to the lower legs on an episode of Survivor! Shin splints are a painful injury that runners and athletes suffer from. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) or Shin Splints occur as the fibers that hold the muscle to the bone of the lower leg (Tibia). As the body pounds down on a biomechanically imperfect foot, the shock is absorbed in abnormal places including the tibia. The muscles of the gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles) and the muscles on the front of the leg (shin) begin to take on an excess load with every step. This causes the muscles to micro-tear and even cause microfractures along the tibia. The body responds by sending a large amount of inflammation to help heal the minor injuries. This inflammation causes swelling that can be very painful and even prevent athletesfrom their everyday activities.
Shin Splints are a very easy injury to treat and an even easier injury to prevent. Treatment consists of rest (not realistic in most athletes), icing 20 minutes after exercise, compressing during exercise (calf sleeves) and warming up the lower leg and foot muscles prior to workouts. K-tape and other means of topical anti-inflammatories can help reduce the swelling and inflammation to the area of injury.
Prevention of Shin Splints is key. Prevention is aimed at keeping abnormal forces from acting on the feet and legs. This begins with putting the foot in a better anatomical position. By placing orthotics on the foot, the foot, ankle and lower leg all hit the ground in a more correct position. This reduces the excess stress placed on the lower leg. The arch of the foot usually acts as a shock absorber to impact. With a flattened arch this stress must be placed elsewhere-leading to pain and injury.
Warming the muscles of the lower leg prior to exercise can help increase blood flow and stretch the ligaments and tendons of the area to prevent minor injury by increasing their flexibility.
Surface changes and level of impact can also lead to Shin Splints. Any dramatic change in surface (i.e. from dirt to cement), increasing slopes of running routine (uphill/downhill) and introducing different impact activities can also lead to Shin Splints.
At Foot and Ankle Specialists of The Woodlands, we offer multiple treatment methods for Shin Splints including but not limited to orthotics, physical therapy and stretching exercises. For a more comprehensive list of our treatments and ways to treat Shin Splints and other athletic injuries please contact us at:
Dr. Marcin N. Vaclaw
Foot and Ankle Specialists of The Woodlands
9191 Pinecroft Dr suite 150
The Woodlands, TX 77380