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Causes and Treatment of Shin Splints

Shin splints” is a term podiatrists use to refer to pain anywhere between your knee and ankle. Deep within that area – the shin – is your tibia, better known as your shin bone. Numerous muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues surround the tibia. When those tissues become irritated or inflamed, you get pain, tenderness, and possibly swelling in the front part of your lower leg.

Causes

The most common cause of shin splints is overuse. After muscles and other interior structures of the body become stressed – that is, challenged by any type of activity – they need time to rest and repair themselves. Let’s say you haven’t been running in a while, and you go out for a slow ½ mile on a soft surface. Your muscles will probably be okay with that. However, if you haven’t been on a run in some time and you take off on a speedy, hilly four or five miles – the muscles around your shin bone can quickly become inflamed and cause shin splints.

Shin splints can also occur if you have:

  • a tendency to over pronate
  • an imbalance in opposing muscle groups in your legs
  • weak or collapsed arches in your feet
  • stress fractures in the bones of your lower legs

Treatment

Ease the pain of shin splints with this three-pronged approach:

  • rest from the activity that caused the pain
  • soothe the shins by applying ice packs several times a day
  • take medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation

If these home treatments don’t help, contact board-certified podiatrist Kenneth R. Wilhelm, DPM at Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Fairfax County, Virginia, who will perform a complete exam of your problem area. Dr. Wilhelm will diagnose and treat any underlying issues of shin splints, such as stress fractures or biomechanical imbalances in your feet or ankles. Call our Centreville office at (703) 996-3000 for an appointment.

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