Shin splints involve damage to one of two groups of muscles along the shin bone that cause pain. The location of the shin splint pain depends on which group of muscles is damaged. The two types of shin splints include the following:
- anterolateral shin splint - a type of shin splint that affects the front and outer part of the muscles of the shin and is caused by a congenital (present at birth) imbalance in the size of opposite muscles.
- posteromedial shin splint - a type of shin splint that affects the back and inner part of the muscles of the shin and is caused by running and/or by wearing inappropriate footwear.
Shin splints usually develop after rigorous exercise, sports, or repetitive activity.
The following are the most common symptoms of shin splints. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- anterolateral shin splints
With this type of shin splint, pain is felt on the front and outside of the shin, which is first felt when the heel touches the ground during running. Pain eventually becomes constant and the shin is painful to the touch.
- posteromedial shin splints
With this type of shin splint, pain starts on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle. Pain becomes worse when standing on the toes or rolling the ankle inward. As the shin splint progresses, the severity of pain will increase, leading to inflammation.
The symptoms of shin splints may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of a shin splint usually is confirmed with a complete medical history and physical examination.
Specific treatment for shin splints will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the condition
- type of shin splint
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies
- expectation for the course of the condition
- your opinion or preference
The best course of treatment for shin splints is to discontinue any activity that is causing the condition, until the injury is healed. Other treatment may include:
- stretching exercises
- strengthening exercises
- cold packs
- medication such as ibuprofen
- running shoes with a rigid heel and special arch support
- surgery, in severe cases, where part of the shin bone is torn away
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