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Shin Splints

Introduction

Shin splints is the term used for pain that occurs on the front or inside edge of the tibia, or shinbone.

Anatomy

The leg contains two bones, a larger bone (tibia), and a thinner bone (fibula).  The tibialis anterior muscle connects at the front of the tibia, which is the muscle responsible for moving the foot upward and controlling the lowering of the forefoot when walking.  The tibialis posterior muscle attaches at the back inside edge of the tibia and fibula.  The tibialis posterior muscle to turns the foot inward and down and lift the heel when walking.

Causes

The most common cause of shin splints comes from overuse of the muscles.  This mainly occurs with athletes who participate in sports that require quick starts and stops.  Basketball and tennis are two common sports where this injury is found.  Another cause of this injury is wearing shoes that have poor shock absorption or running on hard surfaces.

Symptoms

Shin splints cause a dull aching pain on the front or inside lower part of the leg.  The pain may increase when you move your legs, climb stairs, or walk.  The pain typically goes away with rest and may be worse when you first wake up in the morning.  The sore area occasionally appears red and swollen.

Diagnosis

Your physician can usually diagnose shin splints with a physical examination, however, x-rays are usually also ordered to rule out any other potential causes of pain.

Treatment

Physical therapists can aide in the treatment of shin splints by helping to guide you with exercises and stretches.  This can help you get back to your normal level of activity and strengthen your muscles.  Your therapist will ice the area which will ease inflammation and pain.  They can also help you in taking foot measurements and ordering custom orthotics inserts that can be placed in your shoes.  You will also learn correct postures and form to improve your running style and suggestions for avoiding muscle overuse.

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