Shin splints are the most prevalent lower leg injury and affect a broad range of individuals. It affects mostly runners and accounts for approximately 13% to 17% of all running-related injuries. High school age runners see shin splints injury rates of approximately 13%. Aerobic dancers have also been known to have shin splints, with injury rates as high as 22%. Military personnel undergoing basic training experience shin splints injury rates between 4–8%.
Shin splint pain is described as a recurring dull ache along the inner part of the lower two-thirds of the tibia. In contrast, stress fracture pain is localized to the fracture site.
Biomechanically, over-pronation is a common factor in shin splints and action should be taken to improve the biomechanics of the gait. Pronation occurs when the medial arch moves downward and towards the body's midline to create a more stable point of contact with the ground. In other words, the ankle rolls inwards so that more of the arch has contact with the ground. This abnormal movement causes muscles to fatigue more quickly and to be unable to absorb any shock from the foot hitting the ground.
While the exact cause is unknown, shin splints can be attributed to the overloading of the lower leg due to biomechanical irregularities resulting in an increase in stress exerted on the tibia. A sudden increase in intensity or frequency in activity level fatigues muscles too quickly to properly help absorb shock, forcing the tibia to absorb most of that shock. This stress is associated with the onset of shin splints. Muscle imbalance, including weak core muscles, inflexibility and tightness of lower leg muscles, including the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantar muscles (commonly the flexor digitorum longus) can increase the possibility of shin splints. The pain associated with shin splints is caused from a disruption of Sharpey's fibres that connect the medial soleus fascia through the periosteum of the tibia where it inserts into the bone. With repetitive stress, the impact forces eccentrically fatigue the soleus and create repeated tibial bending or bowing, contributing to shin splints. The impact is made worse by running uphill, downhill, on uneven terrain, or on hard surfaces. Improper footwear, including worn-out shoes, can also contribute to shin splints.
How do I deal with shin splints? How Are They Treated?
Rest your body. It needs time to heal.
Ice your shin to ease pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain is gone.
Use custom orthotic inserts for your shoes.
Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, if you need them.
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