ZocdocAnswersWhat causes shin splints?

Question

What causes shin splints?

I am an avid runner who enjoys exercising to improve my overall health and conditioning, but I notice that I often have an excruciating pain in my lower shins. The shin pain does not really bother me while I am walking, but it is very pronounced when I run for an extended period of time. I was discussing the issue with a friend of mine who used to be on the track team in high school, and he said that I needed to strengthen the muscles in my lower leg. On the other hand, I talked with a jogging enthusiast who said that I was wearing the wrong type of shoes and should purchase a pair of professionally designed runners.

Answer

Shin splints are a lay term used to describe a variety of disorders that cause leg and calf pain, and it is important to get them evaluated by a physician. Shin splints can be caused by overuse injuries of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments of the leg. These types of problems require a rest period to allow your body to heal, and things like using ice, compression, elevation, and anti-inflammatory drugs can all accelerate healing. Shin splints can also be caused by stress and strain on the bones and muscles of the leg by problems with your feet or your gait, so the advice to get good running shoes that are fitted to your foot and gait type is probably very good advice. A shoe store that caters specifically to runners will be your best resource to deciding what pair of running shoes will serve you best. Another cause of shin splints are stress fractures of the tibia, the largest bone of the leg. The tibia absorbs virtually all of the stress and impact transmitted through the leg. It's partner, the fibula, is only a small supporting bone throughout most of the leg. If people get stress fractures in the leg, they basically always occur in the tibia. If your shin splints are due to stress fractures or an overuse injury, this should be evaluated and treated by an orthopedist. Only a complete exam by a specialist can determine the exact cause of your leg pain and make sure it is not something serious. In the meantime, take a break from running and rest your legs; don't continue to run if it is causing you significant pain, since this is the best way to hurt yourself further. When you are able to get off your feet, use rest, ice, compression, and elevation to help decrease any inflammation going on in your legs and alleviate your symptoms. Under the guidance of a physician, you may also need to take anti-inflammatory medication, such as Advil, regularly for a period of time to improve your symptoms and help your legs heal.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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