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Shin splints is a painful condition that affects the shin bone (tibia). This is located at the front of your lower leg between the knee and ankle (the condition is officially known as medial tibial stress syndrome).

Generally it isn’t serious, but it can cause extreme discomfort and make it impossible to exercise. You don’t want to live with pain, and anything that affects your mobility is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are usually a result of overuse arising from activities that repeatedly impact the leg. Pain occurs when the muscles and connective tissues around the shin bone become inflamed and sore, due to constant stress and impact on the bone.

Symptoms

Aching pain along the front or side of your lower leg may well indicate shin splints. The pain can range from slight tenderness to a dull ache. At worst it can be extreme and persistent, although the pain can come and go.

It tends to start when you exercise, either during the activity or after you’ve finished – particularly if you are starting a new activity. Even if you’re not working out intensely shin splints can still occur, for example when walking or climbing stairs.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Running, jumping and long hikes on uneven tracks can all cause shin splints. Not surprisingly, runners, dancers, athletes who compete in high impact sports and military personnel are particularly prone to this condition.

However, shin splints aren’t limited to people who perform specific activities. There are a few less obvious causes to look out for.

Inappropriate Footwear

Your feet should always have the correct support, whatever your activity. A well-fitting shoe holds the foot firmly to prevent slipping and pressure in all the wrong places.The heal must cushion the foot and absorb the impact as you move.

Without the right shoes there’s always the potential for injury, even if you’re just walking down the road. The problem will be exacerbated if an activity is particularly stressful on the lower limbs.

Insufficient Vitamin D

Together with calcium, this vitamin is vital to keep bones healthy and strong. Without a sufficient supply, bones become soft and weak. This leads to loss of bone density (osteoporosis), fractures and breaks. If shin splints go untreated, an osteoporosis suffer will be at extra risk from stress fractures, even if they don’t engage in vigorous exercise.

Problem Arches

The sole of your foot between the heel and the ball is known as the arch. Comprised of tendons, ligaments and bones, the arch cushions and supports your feet as you move. If your arch is too high (high arch) or it collapses (flat feet) it won’t distribute your weight or absorb impact correctly. This places additional strain on muscles and ligaments, and shin splints can follow.

Treatment for Shin Splints

Shin splints shouldn’t be ignored. If left untreated, a minor issue can easily become more serious and even lead to a stress fracture.

  • Rest, icing and anti-inflammatories may work well in the short term (always consult a healthcare professional before taking any medication).
  • Always wear the right footwear for exercise and everyday use.  
  • Never charge into a new sport or exercise regime – build up gradually.
  • Wear custom orthotics to support and cushion your feet and help with posture.
  • Talk to a podiatrist before doing anything new that impacts your feet, legs and hips.

Sound Advice at Feet By Pody

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