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What Are Shin Splints?

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Some conditions are defined by what they are. For example, a muscle tear can only be a muscle tear. Others are defined by how they make you feel. A headache, for example, might be the result of muscle tension, or chemical activity in the brain, or nerve inflammation, or dehydration—the symptoms might be the same, but the causes are very different.


Shin splints fall into the latter category. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, “shin splints” can refer generally to any condition or diagnosis that leads to pain in the front of the lower leg, usually on the medial (inside) side of the shinbone (tibia). This area is a “border zone” of sorts where the muscles and tendons attach to the bone, making it more susceptible than usual to stress and damage. Both tendon and muscle tissue can stretch and tear, and in some cases even hairline cracks (stress fractures) may develop in the surface of the shinbone.


The pain of shin splints usually manifests itself as a tenderness, soreness, or achiness rather than a sharp or stabbing sensation. Swelling is also common. It is an overuse injury, meaning that it builds (relatively) slowly over time due to repetitive force or activity, rather than in one traumatic impact. At first, you’ll probably only notice the discomfort during exercise, and after it. Over time, however, the pain may get worse and persist all the time, even during rest periods.


Runners, dancers, and military recruits going through basic training are among the most consistent sufferers of shin splints; however, anyone who participates in regular athletic activity are at elevated risk. If you suddenly shift your activities—new sports, or just longer and more intense workouts—your body may not be ready to handle the stress.


Regardless of how your shin splints formed, pain that keeps you from the things you love isn’t something you should try to simply push through. Give Gulf South Foot and Ankle a call, and we’ll make sure you get started on an effective, personalized treatment plan. We have two convenient office locations—dial (504) 708-4810 for Metairie, or (985) 809-1464 for Covington.


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