Shin splints is a common term used for a half a dozen lower leg problems ranging from nerve irritations to tendonitis to stress fractures. The most common type that is experienced involves the tearing away of the muscle tissue that attaches to the front of the lower leg. The beginner runner and the runner that resumes training after a long lay off are most susceptible to this injury. The connective sheath attached to the muscles and bone of the lower leg become irritated, resulting in a razor-sharp pain in the lower leg along the inside of the tibia or shin bone. Shin splints can be felt anywhere from just below the knee down to the ankle. The pain may diminish after warming up but then returns a few minutes after the completion of a workout.
The most common sources of shin splints are tendinitis, periostitis, stress fractures and compartment syndrome. The onset of shin splints is most common after exercise, caused by high impact training, excessive training, poor technique or biomechanical problems such as pes planus (flat feet) or pronation (Pronation is the motion of the foot once it lands). Stress fractures that result in shin splint pain come from overuse or repeated pounding of the feet from sports such as gymnastics. The downward pressure stresses the tibia which is the most prominent bone of the lower leg.
Correct diagnosis of the cause of pain or discomfort is necessary in order to choose the most appropriate treatment. Compartment syndrome may require immediate medical intervention, depending on the severity of the condition, while a stress fracture requires rest until the bone has healed. The inflammation of soft tissue known as shin splints can be initially treated with rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy. Patients may be advised to decrease the duration or intensity of their exercise and then build it up slowly. The best way to deal with shin splints is to do what it takes to prevent them in the first place. There are several preventative measures that should be practiced by every runner on every team. Purchasing the proper shoe for your foot is the first step in preventing shin splints. Knowing whether you are an overpronator or underpronator is very important.
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