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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

Shin Splints: Overuse in the Lower Legs

Athletes know and dread the feeling—increasing pain along the front of the legs—but anyone can develop the discomfort. It slows you down and makes it harder and harder to do the things you enjoy. It also gets worse the longer you continue your activities. Shin splints are a common problem that can put people of all levels of ability out of action. However, the sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner you can restore your lower limbs.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are a common overuse injury in the shins that plagues athletes, especially runners. The lower legs handle significant amounts of stress when you walk, run, and jump. Over time, the strain can take a toll on your lower limbs. If your feet and legs aren’t conditioned to handle the pressure, the tissues running along your shin bones can become inflamed. Then, during your activities, you feel a burning or an aching in the front of your lower legs. You may also notice some mild swelling in the area. Typically the pain worsens the more you are active, but improves again as you rest.

Athletes usually develop this from overtraining, poor conditioning, or weak biomechanics. When you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your work outs, your feet and legs must work harder to manage the stress. Problems like flat feet compromise support for your limbs and strain the shins as well. Over time, your tissues become aggravated. If they aren’t given enough time to heal and adjust, the inflammation will only increase.

How Do You Treat Them?

Fortunately, shin splints can be treated quite successfully using conservative measures. You’ll need to have your lower limbs examined to diagnose the issues and rule out other possible conditions, like stress fractures or compartment syndrome. Dr. Darren Silvester will thoroughly evaluate your lower limbs. Our team will check for underlying issues that could be contributing to the problem. Then we can help you begin treatment to restore your shins to comfort.

You’ll need to take a break from your activities to allow your tissues time to rest and recover. Avoid high-impact sports, like running, until your limbs have healed. Instead, cross-train with low-impact exercises, like swimming or biking. You’ll also need to lower the irritation in your legs. Icing the painful areas will help minimize the swelling and lower inflammation.

You may need to change your shoes to models that support your feet and cushion your steps. Any worn shoes will need to be replaced. You may also need orthotics to help manage preexisting biomechanical issues, like flat feet, that contribute to the pressure on your shins. Stretching your feet and legs to relax their muscles can also help. As you recover, you’ll need to slowly recondition your feet and legs to handle the strain of your activities so you don’t reinjure yourself.

Don’t wait until you have to limp to get around to seek the treatment that you need. Take care of your shins so that they carry you, pain-free, through your activities. If you’ve noticed discomfort in your feet or lower legs during sports, contact Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic in Universal City, TX. You can request an appointment or more information by calling 210.375.3318 or using the online contact page. Also visit our FAQ page about shin splints for more information.