The tibia is the bone that runs along the front of your lower leg. You could suffer inflammation and pain when you overuse the muscles around the tibia. Shin splints are the name used to describe pain anywhere along the tibia bone. If you engage in vigorous sporting activities or have conditions like flat foot, you will likely develop this condition.
Shin splints are characterized by sharp pain and discomfort that comes with activity and progress to persistent pain even after the exercise routine. Your doctor will determine whether shin splints cause pain by obtaining your medical history and exercise routine. If you are diagnosed with shin splints, the doctor will recommend rest, cold presses, and a slow increase in activity level.
Another form of treatment that plays an essential role in shin splint relief is physical therapy. If you or a loved one needs physical therapy to relieve your pain and prevent further shin splints progression in Las Vegas, NV, you will require the treatment plans we offer at Suarez Physical Therapy.
Understanding Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that up to 50% of individuals in the United States suffer from musculoskeletal complications. Most of these conditions are caused by sports injuries or vigorous physical activity. Shin splints are the most common musculoskeletal disorder among professional athletes, aerobic dancers, and gym goers.
Shin splints are damage to the lower leg characterized by bone inflammation. The condition arises when you overuse the tibia bone through vigorous exercise or an injury. This can result in serious pain from the inflammation and small tears on the tendons, muscled, and bone tissue.
Two main muscles contribute to shin splints syndrome actively. Injury in the anterior or posterior tibialis muscles can cause inflammation or soreness in your lower leg's front and back portions. When left untreated, shin splints can cause serious pain and affect the quality of your life.
The following individuals are at an increased risk of developing medial tibial stress syndrome:
- Runners. Individuals who run on uneven surfaces with an increase in the running program tend to overuse their muscles and bones, causing this condition.
- Athletes who engage in vigorous
- Dancers. Often most dancing routines involve sudden and vigorous movement of the legs, which can strain your muscles and tendons.
- Military members who match or walk a lot.
- Individuals with eating disorders or underlying vitamin D deficiency.
- Anyone with osteoporosis. Having osteoporosis means that your bones are weakened, and further stress can cause injury.
- People with flat feet. Individuals with flat feet lack a visible arch and experience pain when walking.
Shin splints are classified into different categories depending on the location of the pain:
- Anterior shin splints. In this type of shin splint, you will experience pain in the front part of the shin. Often, the pain could worsen when you attempt to lift your toe or keep your heels in a steady position.
- Posterior shin splints. In this condition, the pain is experienced in the inner edge of your shin bone.
Common Shin Splints’ Causes
Medial tibial stress syndrome develops due to repeated stress to the shin bone by pulling or muscle tugging. When the connective tissues of the lower leg are overstretched, the tendons and bone around the area could suffer serious damage. Frequent pressure from jumping or running can cause inflammation of the bone. Common causes of shin splints include the following:
- Sudden increase in physical activity intensity. Physical activity helps strengthen your bones and muscles. However, you should not overdo it. You should gradually increase your exercise intensity if you are into an exercise routine. The sudden unexpected increase can wear out your muscles and cause damage to the bone causing shin splints.
- Use of unsupportive footwear. Using shoes that do not elevate your arch could cause a strain on your shin resulting in medial tibial stress syndrome.
- Running on uneven surface You exert more pressure on your calf muscles when you run or exercise on uneven surfaces.
Symptoms Associated with Shin Splint
The following are some of the symptoms associated with shin splints:
- Lower leg inflammation, swelling, or pain. You could experience this pain when you exercise or during rest.
- Soreness and pain along the length of your shin bone.
- Pain in the outer portion of your lower legs which a tibia fracture could cause.
- Numbness, coldness, and foot weakness.
- Increased muscle stiffness and resistance when you move your foot.
- Lower leg lumping.
- Limited leg motion.
- Localized swelling, bruising, and soreness that does not go away.
- Shin bone tenderness.
Patients with medial tibial stress syndrome could experience different pain levels at certain leg parts:
- Grade I. Pain occurs after engaging in physical activity and is commonly located at the shin and calf.
- Grade II. You will not experience pain during the activity. However, the pain comes before you start and after you are done with the activity. Often, this pain will not interfere with your routine.
- Grade III. Performance degradation happens due to the pain you experience before physical activity.
- Grade IV. Serious pain in your lower leg prevents you from training or engaging in physical activity.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
When you visit your doctor to report symptoms of this condition, the healthcare provider conducts a physical examination. This is by using the location and seriousness of your injuries. Additionally, you will need to provide more information about your physical activity levels in the days leading up to the injury.
The doctor rules out more serious conditions like a stress fracture or tendonitis by performing x-rays or bone scans. The type of treatment you need for this condition depends on the following factors:
- Your age. The type of treatment that an elderly person receives from shin splints is not the same as the one given to a teenager under similar circumstances. This is because the exact causes of the condition may be different. With age, your bones and muscles weaken. Therefore, not all treatments will help relieve the pain.
- Your medical history. Before your doctor recommends a treatment plan, they will review your medical history to determine whether you have underlying conditions. For example, anti-inflammatory medications are known to cause hypertension after prolonged use. Therefore, these drugs will not be the right treatment if you have an underlying heart condition.
- The severity of your symptoms. In severe cases of shin splints, rest may not help relieve your pain completely. Your doctor may recommend you consult a physical therapist for more engaging treatment.
- Your preference. Shin splints do not pose a threat to your life. Therefore, you can have an opinion of the treatment you wish to partake in.
Shin splint treatment involves the following plans:
Having a Rest
Your doctor may recommend breaking from vigorous exercise or physical activity to ease the pain of shin splints. However, you should not give up on physical activity. You can try out low-impact exercises like water running, swimming, and cycling during the healing process.
Sometimes, you could have swelling and inflammation of your lower legs as a sign of shin splints. You can relieve the swelling and inflammation by applying cold pressed every twenty minutes. The ice will relieve the swelling and ease the pain associated with the condition. After several days of applying ice cubes to your shins, you may feel some difference in your symptoms.
If you experience serious pain from your shin splints, your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, with prolonged use of the drugs, you could experience the following side effects:
- Dizziness and headaches.
- Heartburn and stomach ulcers.
- High blood pressure.
Given these side effects, you should take the lowest dose of NSAIDs and find optional ways to relieve your pain if it persists.
Vitamin D deficiency predisposes you to shin splints and other related conditions. Therefore, you may require daily supplementation to ease the effects of your condition. However, you should not take supplements before consulting with a doctor.
Physical Therapy for Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
If shin splints prevent you from performing your daily activities, your doctor might suggest you explore physical therapy. PT care aims to ease your pain, increase your range of motion, and improve your life. When you consult a physical therapist with shin splints, the professional will determine the risk factors predisposing you to the condition. The therapist will then develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
Your physical therapist may prescribe the following techniques to relieve the pain from shin splints:
- Rest from vigorous physical activity and exercise.
- Ice the tender area for five to ten minutes one to three times daily.
- Gently tap the arch of the affected leg.
- Massage the injured tissues regularly.
- Perform gentle exercises.
In addition to relieving your pain, physical therapy is meant to strengthen your leg muscles and prevent the recurrence of the condition. Therefore, the following exercises could be part of your physical therapy:
- Seated calf stretches. This exercise requires you to sit on the floor with your knees straight. You will place a towel around your foot and pull your foot to the most flexible position. Remaining in this position for up to thirty seconds will stimulate your muscles to heal.
- Heel walk. This exercise involves standing in one position and lifting your foot off the floor. You will then need to remain in that position for up to ten seconds and slowly lower your foot to the floor.
- Standing ankle dorsiflexion. Stand with your feet at least 18 inches on the wall and keep your knees straight. You will then lean forward slowly to stretch your calf muscles.
The most important benefit you accrue from exploring physical therapy is that the treatment promotes natural healing. Additionally, you will not have to deal with the side effects of medication. A skilled physical therapist can assess your physical activity routine to determine the mistakes you could be making. They will then recommend the right form of exercise for your condition. Additionally, the therapist suggests footwear that provides the proper support depending on the extent of your exercises.
When finding a physical therapist to help you move past shin splints, you must consult an experienced and licensed professional. The following tips can help you find the right therapist:
- Seek recommendations from family and friends.
- Ask your healthcare provider for a referral.
- When you visit the therapist for your first appointment, you must ask about their experience and certifications to treat people with shin splints.
Frequently Asked Questions on Shin Splints
Many health conditions and injuries besides shin splints may cause pain in your legs. Therefore, not all discomfort or pain from the back of your legs is from this condition. The following are some frequently asked questions on shin splints:
Are Shin Splints Preventable?
Yes. Although shin splints often result from our routine activity, you can reduce your risk of developing the condition and avoid making it worse through the following tips:
- Wear supportive shoes. Poorly fitting athletics shoes which lack the right features can contribute to the development and worsening of shin splints. You must speak to your physical therapist about the right shoe and replace them every 300 miles.
- Strengthen your foot arch. The foot arch forms when a person is seven or eight years old. Age, injury, and other health complications could alter the position of the arch. Additionally, a lack of physical activity could weaken the foot muscles. These changes will affect your lower leg causing medial tibial stress syndrome. Strengthening the arc of your foot is a great start to reducing the pain associated with this condition. You can enhance the arch through foot orthotics.
- Avoid sudden increases in activity. You should start exercising slowly and increase the activity level and intensity with time. The sudden increase in physical activity can cause unnecessary strain on the muscles, which worsens the shin splints.
- Exercise on soft surfaces. Exercising on sidewalks or concrete will increase the muscle and bone force absorbed.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight or obese exerts extra pressure on your legs and can strain the muscles. You can reduce the risk of shin splints by maintaining the right body weight.
- A physical therapist should evaluate your exercise routine. Incorrect jumping, running, or landing techniques could cause shin splints. Consulting with a physical therapist helps you understand the right exercise techniques to avoid overstraining your lower leg muscles.
What complications are associated with shin splints?
Complications are rare for patients with shin splints. However, shin splints could progress into stress fractures if you continue to run or exercise before seeking the necessary treatment. A stress fracture happens when cracks form in the leg bones. Treatment for a stress fracture is more serious, and your doctor may recommend using crutches or a walking boot until the bone heals.
Are shin splints permanent?
No. You do not have to deal with the pain of shin splints forever. The pain should go away with rest and a change in your exercise routine. Sometimes, the doctor will prescribe some pain medications. You should visit a doctor if the pain does not go away over a long time. The doctor will perform different tests to determine whether you have medial tibial stress syndrome or a stress fracture.
When should I see a doctor for shin splints?
Sometimes, the pain from shin splints is mild, and you may recover after rest and some pain medications. However, you should not hesitate to call the doctor if you experience these symptoms:
- Pain which does not go away even after treatment.
- Swelling of the legs.
- Having a red and warm shin bone.
- Pain that changes or moves to a new area.
What is the outlook for individuals with shin splints?
Most people will recover from shin splint after taking pain relievers and taking time off physical activity for a while. Once you have healed and the symptoms go away, you can resume your regular exercise program.
Find a Competent Physical Therapist Near Me
When you engage in vigorous physical activities or overuse your lower leg, you could injure the tibia and surrounding muscles. When you visit a doctor with pain or inflammation in the lower leg, your doctor will perform various tests to determine if you have shin splints. X-rays or bone scans are used to determine the extent of damage to the bone.
The doctor may prescribe pain, medications, and rest in less serious conditions. Unfortunately, excessive use of pain relievers could have severe negative side effects. Therefore, you can explore other options, like a physical therapist.
A knowledgeable physical therapist will review your exercise routine and correct whatever you are doing wrong. Additionally, they can guide you through the right exercises to strengthen your muscles and relieve the pain associated with shin splints.
At Suarez Physical Therapy, we understand how shin splints can affect the quality of your life. We offer top-notch physical therapy services to all our clients battling shin splints in Las Vegas, NV. Contact us today at 702-368-6778 to discuss your condition.