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"Is 'painter's shin' a serious problem?"


I started working as a house painter some months ago. After a few weeks, I developed pains in my shins. The older painters said I had 'painter's shin' caused by resting my shins on the rung of the ladder all day. I have padded my shins with foam rubber which helps a little. I am concerned about the long term effects of this condition. If I wind up painting houses for the rest of my working life, will I permanently hurt myself? Is there something I can do to prevent permanent damage?


Painter's shin falls into the category of chronic repetitive motion injuries. More common examples of this include carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by chronic bending motions at the wrist associated with certain jobs. In the case of painter's shin, the repetitive motion of bumping the front of your legs against the ladder is causing pains, either from local irritation of the underlying bone and muscle or perhaps from pressing on some small nerves in the area.

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If you take proper precautions, this condition should clear up and you should be able to continue in this occupation without permanent problems. Placing padding on the fronts of your shins to prevent further damage seems like an excellent start. You may also want to talk to your fellow painters or your job foreman to see what methods they use to prevent this and similar injuries. If, despite proper precautions, the pain worsens or continues without improvement, then I would suggest talking to your primary care doctor. They will be able to perform a physical examination to determine if any permanent damage has been done or any treatment is necessary. An occupational medicine doctor may be an additional resource to you, as they are skilled in dealing with and preventing workplace injuries.

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