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Shin splints is a generalised term used to describe any pain experiencing along the shin area. The pain can be either experienced on the front of the shin or along the inside of the shin bone. Often when we are talking about “shin splints” there are 3 specific injuries we are referring to.

  1. Inflamed structures along the shin bone
  2. Anterior compartment syndrome
  3. Stress Fracture

The image below highlights the main areas you would normally experience pain with shin related injuries.

Image result for anatomy of the shin

So lets break down these 3 different problems!

  1. Inflammation along the shin bone.

This is often felt with people that complete a lot of exercise involving impact. For example running, basketball, netball & dance. Normally the symptoms will appear after a sudden increase in activity or intensity of training. People who have fallen arches or overpronate are also at a higher risk of suffering from this issue.

You will experience soreness along the front or inside of the shin bone. Often this will feel worse after exercise and it may stop you from exercising completely. You will notice the symptoms getting better with rest and reduction of exercise.

Treatment:

  • Completely stop running until the pain has gone
  • Ice along the painful regions
  • Gentle massage along the painful areas
  • Treatments focussed on reducing inflammation
  • Mobilisations of the ankle
  • Gentle stretches of the calve & shin muscles (speak to an injury specialist about these)
  • If the pain persist please see a specialist as you may need further treatment or you may be suffering from one of the problems below.
  1. Anterior compartment syndrome

This is the most common form of compartment syndrome however there are 3 other types that can occur. This condition occurs when the pressure in a specific compartment of the leg builds to abnormally high levels. This is primarily caused by muscle bleeding and the fascia around the area not stretching sufficiently. As this pressure builds it puts high amounts of stress on the blood vessels and nerves running through that area. You will experience; pain when stretching the area, burning, pins & needles, numbness and sometimes weakness. With this condition seek an appointment with your practitioner or GP as you may require surgery to reduce the pressure.

Treatment:

  • If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please seek help immediately. If left untreated this can result in severe problems and permanent damage.
  1. Stress Fracture

This is a small fracture of the shin bone that is normally caused through consistent impact to the shin. It can also be caused by a blunt trauma to the shin. Often people that complete running, dance, football, basketball, netball experience stress fractures. You will feel acute pain at one point along the shin and any pressure onto that leg will cause pain. Your symptoms will get worse during exercise and sometimes walking. Stress fractures can be correctly diagnosed through use of a tuning fork or X-ray imaging of the shin.

Treatment:

  • If you think you have suffered a stress fracture please see an injury specialist or GP. They will either complete an assessment to diagnose the fracture or send you for an X-Ray.
  • After this point treatment involves complete rest until pain has fully ceased.
  • After this strengthening of the shin/calves is recommended but we would suggest completing this with a professional.

We understand that sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose an injury without any medical training. Therefore if you are unsure or just want some piece of mind please book an appointment to see an injury specialist. They will be able to correctly diagnose the problem and inform you on the appropriate steps moving forwards.

 

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