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Shin Splints

Dancers and military recruits are probably not lumped together in many categories of any kind. Dancing is an artistic endeavor performed on a stage in front of a willing audience. Military personnel are trained and tasked with defending a nation. One commonality between these two groups of people is that both are susceptible to certain injuries, like shin splints.

Definition

A fairly common condition, shin splints—medically known as “tibial stress syndrome”—are simply a matter of pain that develops along the tibia, which is the larger of the two bones that make up your lower leg. Your tibia supports most of your bodyweight and is a key component for both the knee and ankle joints. This bone, and the corresponding muscles and tendons, can become overworked in certain instances, which causes issues.

Causes

At a very basic level, splints develop when repetitive stress is placed upon the tibia and its connective tissues that keep your muscles attached. More specifically, though, this injury happens frequently when levels of physical activity are suddenly increased or changed.

Individuals who are at increased risk include:

  • Runners, especially new ones.
  • Athletes who participate in sports that are played on hard surfaces and feature sudden starts and stops.
  • Military recruits.
  • Those who have either high arches or flat feet.

Symptoms

The primary symptom that is observed with this condition is pain, which is sharp and often accompanies running or other physical activity. Soreness and/or tenderness in the inner part of the affected lower leg is often quite common for affected individuals. In some cases, swelling is also present. It is important to note that the pain may stop when you are done with physical activity at first, but eventually it can become continuous. When you reach that point, be sure to make an appointment with our office.

Treatments

Generally speaking, most cases of tibial stress syndrome are effectively treated with conservative, at-home care, particularly with the following steps:

  • Rest. Taking time completely away from activities will help, but a better idea is to simply switch to low-impact exercises that keep you active while allowing the overworked tissues to heal. Swimming, water running, and bicycling are such exercises that help.
  • Ice. Alleviate your pain and swelling by icing the affected shin four to eight times during the course of the day at 15 to 20 minutes each time. Be sure to have the ice or ice packs wrapped in a thin towel to protect your skin.
  • Pain medication. Over-the-counter medications can reduce the pain, but don’t forget to check with our office for appropriate dosage and recommended types.

Prevention

When it comes to treating shin splints, the best practice is to take measures to avoid developing the condition in the first place. Fortunately, the steps taken to avoid this injury are easy and include:

  • Wearing proper footwear. Make sure that you have appropriate shoes for the activity that you perform. Also, make sure to replace your running shoes every 350 to 500 miles with a new pair.
  • Wear arch supports. The over-the-counter inserts you find at the store might be adequate to help keep shin splints at bay, but give some thought to coming in and having our expert foot doctors prepare custom orthotics for your feet.
  • Cross-train. Avoid overworking the tissues in your lower legs, especially from intense levels of force, by incorporating low-impact activities into your workout routine. Water sports, bicycling, and walking are great ways to stay in shape and keep your shins pain-free.
  • Strength training. Exercises that strengthen your calf muscles will decrease your risk of injury.
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Effective Shin Splint Care in Austin, TX

Shin splints are just one of the many conditions we treat here at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists. Our loyal patients come from surrounding Texas communities like Round Rock, Cedar Park, Georgetown, and more to receive the effective podiatric care that we provide. When you need the best in foot and ankle health care, contact our Austin, TX office by calling (512) 328-8900 or using our online form. Request your appointment today and experience the profound difference our commitment to excellence in podiatry makes for you!

Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS
Podiatric Physician, Surgeon, Specialist at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists