Sports Medicine Tips for Managing Shin Splints

Are you an athlete or someone who runs regularly, and who has begun to recently notice pain or aching in your shins toward the end of your workouts? It’s possible you are dealing with shin splints – what exactly are shin splints, how do they form, and how can you both avoid and remedy them if they’re a problem for you?

At The Orthopaedic Center, we’re here to assist patients around Tulsa with all their sports medicine and related orthopedic doctor needs, whether you’re in need of major procedures like joint replacement or assistance with issues like these. Here’s a basic primer on what shin splints are and why they can be frustrating to some people, plus what causes them and how they can be both prevented and remedied. 

Managing Shin Splints

Defining Shin Splints

For those who aren’t aware, shin splints are a generic term that refers to pain in the front region of your lower leg. Known medically as tibial stress syndrome, shin splints are caused by stress on the shinbone and connective tissues in this area. This pain can be concentrated along the outer part of your leg or around your ankles; it’s possible to have varying levels of discomfort as well, from dull aches to sharp pains that occur when you’re engaging in physical activity.

In most cases, shin splints are not considered a serious medical issue and can be treated at home with rest and ice. However, in some cases where the pain is severe or recurring, it may be necessary to seek medical treatment from an orthopedic doctor.

Shin splints are common among several types of athletes, including runners, soccer players, and dancers. In many cases, they are caused by overuse or improper training techniques such as sudden increases in workout intensity or mileage.

Shin Splint Causes

Shin splints can be caused by several factors, many of which can overlap in some cases:

  • Flat feet: Some people are simply more prone to developing shin splints due to having flat feet, which can cause imbalances in the muscles and tendons of the lower leg.
  • Muscle weakness or imbalance: In some cases, certain muscle groups may be weaker than others, leading to increased stress on the shins when engaging in physical exercise.
  • Improper footwear: Wearing shoes that don’t offer proper support or are worn out can also contribute to shin splints.
  • High-intensity workouts: Pushing your body too hard during physical activity, especially if you’re not used to it, can lead to stress on the shins and cause pain.
  • Improper warmup: Not properly stretching or warming up before exercise can also put extra stress on the lower leg muscles and lead to shin splints.
  • Hard surfaces: Exercising on hard surfaces like concrete can cause added strain on the legs and increase your risk of developing shin splints.

Prevention and Treatment

Luckily, shin splints are fully preventable if you’ve identified them as an issue and are willing to take the proper steps. Here are some basic tips:

  • Invest in quality shoes: For many people, the primary cause of shin splints is wearing improper footwear. Investing in high-quality shoes that offer proper support and cushioning can greatly reduce your risk of developing shin splints.
  • Gradual increase in activity: If you’re just getting started with a workout routine, it’s important to gradually increase the intensity over time to avoid overexertion on your legs. This will give your muscles and tendons time to adjust and strengthen.
  • Proper warm-up: Always take the time to properly stretch and warm up before engaging in physical activity. This will prepare your muscles for the stress they’ll endure during exercise, reducing the chance of developing shin splints.

If you’ve already developed shin splints, here are some steps you can take to treat them:

  • Rest: The most important thing you can do to treat shin splints is to rest. Take a break from any high-impact activities until the pain subsides.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Compression: Wearing compression sleeves or socks can help improve blood flow and reduce swelling in the lower leg.
  • Physical therapy: In some cases, it may be beneficial to seek physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch the muscles in your lower leg.
  • Orthopedic treatment: If home remedies are not effective, seeking medical treatment from an orthopedic doctor may be necessary. They can provide a more personalized treatment plan based on the cause and severity of your shin splints.

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your shins, don’t hesitate to consult with an orthopedic doctor. While shin splints may not be a serious medical issue, they can greatly impact your ability to engage in physical activity and should be addressed to prevent future complications. By taking the proper precautions and seeking treatment when needed, you can keep yourself on track for a healthy and active life.

At The Orthopaedic Center, our experienced team of orthopedic doctors is dedicated to helping Tulsa patients overcome any and all issues related to sports medicine and orthopedic care. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your specific needs.

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