Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), refers to pain in the shins – the front lower legs. It is an inflammatory condition of the front part of the tibia. The pain is brought on by strenuous activity, more commonly in stop-start sports such as squash, tennis or basketball. Running too much on hard surfaces is also a common cause of shin splints.
The Most Common Causes of Shin Splints
- Improper stretching
- Lack of warm-up
- Training too hard
- Increasing mileage too quickly
- Running or jumping on hard surfaces
- Muscle imbalance between the posterior and anterior leg
- Worn out shoes that do not have enough support
- Running on a tilted or slanted surface
- Other biomechanical issues
An increase in activity, intensity or period of exertion can easily lead to shin splints, if the muscles and tendons struggle to absorb the impact of the shock force, especially when they are tired.
Females have a higher risk of complications from shin splints, e.g. stress fractures, especially if their bone density is diminished, as may occur in osteoporosis.
People with flat feet or rigid arches have a higher risk of developing shin splints.
What are the signs and symptoms of shin splints?
A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, such as pain, dizziness, fatigue, or anxiety, while a sign is noticeable by everybody, including the doctor or nurse, such as a rash, swelling or discoloration.
The patient has a dull, aching pain in the front part of the lower leg. For some, the pain and discomfort emerge only during exercise, while for others it comes after the physical activity is over. Pain can also be there all the time.
The pain can be on either side of the shinbone, or in the muscle itself – this depends on the cause. Signs and symptoms related to shin splints may include:
- Pain along the inner part of the lower leg
- Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg
- Moderate swelling in the lower leg
- Feet may feel numb and weak, because swollen muscles irritate the nerves
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