If you exercise a lot, you may experience some pain in your shins. Just mentioning it in conversation can lead to people questioning whether or suggesting you have shin splits. After all, this is a common injury in those who train or workout a lot.
But do you really have this problem? And just what is shin splints, because it sounds horrendous, right?
There are certain signs that would suggest that you do have shin splints. Pain isn’t the only symptom you’ll experience. You may also be able to predict if you’ll get them or worsen them in the future, especially as a runner.
The more you know about them, the better it will be for you. Preventing or taking steps to get rid of them will help to protect your legs in the future and support your whole body. You’ll find it easier to exercise and enjoy everything that you do.
Here’s all you need to know about shin splits and how to tell if you have them.
What Exactly Are Shin Splints?
The medical name that some doctors will use is medial tibial stress syndrome or MTSS for short. It’s commonly nicknamed shin splints because of what happens around the shin bone to cause the pain. As the medical name suggests, the condition is affected by stress placed on the tibia, which occurs due to prolonged or intense exercise.
Those who put continuous stress on their shins are more likely to experience the stress syndrome. This stress includes pounding, which occurs during running and jumping sports. Even some sports like tennis and squash can cause the condition because of the amount you jump around to hit a ball!
When you continually put pressure on your joints and bones, the tissues can repair quickly or effectively. Your body gives you the pain signals to get you to stop, and you will need to speak to a doctor if you think you have shin splints to avoid them from getting worse.
The term shin splints aren’t quite exact. Your shins don’t start splinting and your muscles don’t pull away from the bone! What really happens is your muscles start to inflame, putting pressure on the nerves in the vicinity. You can cause fractures to occur in the bones, but the pain occurs long before that happens. Compound or stress fractures usually occur if you haven’t taken steps to rectify the problem in the first place.
What Causes Shin Splints to Occur?
We already know that shin splints occur because of stress on the bones and muscles, but there is more into what happens to make your muscles inflame. There are certain types of running or exercise that are more likely to cause the pain and inflammation, so if you do them, you need to look out for signs of shin splints.
It is the more extreme forces that can lead to more serious damage, including:
- Downhill running
- Uneven terrain exercises
- Stop-Start, interval training workouts
If you have incorrect footwear, you can also experience problems. Your feet must work at odd angles, and you won’t have the cushioning within the shoes to help eliminate some of the poundings on your joints.
Those who are inexperienced in certain sports and forms of exercise are also at risk. There are chances that you won’t take the right steps to warm up before doing any exercises, or you won’t know about the best types of running shoes and equipment to reduce the risk of injury. When you’re inexperienced, you will also likely have less flexibility, which can cause some extra stress to your muscles.
If you have weaker thighs or butt muscles, then you will find you’re more at risk of developing shin splints. The weaker muscles up the top cause problems for, the lower muscles. The lower muscles must work harder, and more pressure is placed on them.
Now that you know about shin splints, it’s time to determine if you really have them. If you have the symptoms below, you will need to talk to your doctor. This is the best way to get a professional diagnosis and take steps to improve the chance of repairing your shins.
Top Ways to Tell If You Have Shin Splints
There are various common symptoms of shin splints. You may not have them all, especially if you’re in the earlier stages of developing them. These are the symptoms you want to look out for to determine if you do have shin splints.
Dull Aches in Your Lower Legs
The first symptom that most people notice is a pain. This is usually a dull ache in your lower legs around your shins—hence the name!
Your pain is starting dull to the inflammation of the muscles. At first, the nerves are only temporarily affected. The inflammation subsides until you start causing the constant stress on the muscles. Eventually, that dull ache will turn to constant pain in your shins.
Pain can feel like your muscles are constantly being stretched. You can get the pain just when walking, especially when stretching the shin muscles on the back legs.
This pain can get worse over time and can end up on either side of the bone. It can feel like there are knots in your muscles or that they need stretching or massaging.
Tender Muscles in Your Lower Leg
The pain isn’t just while you’re exercising. That dull ache can develop into a tenderness in your legs. Remember that your muscles are inflaming and think about how tender your body can feel when you have inflammation elsewhere.
Your nerves are affected and will be in pain. This isn’t just when moving, but when you just touch or catch the lower legs. You may find just getting dressed causes some pain in that location.
Like with the pain, the tenderness will get worse over time. If you continue to do exercise and you ignore the pain, you can feel more of a burning sensation, and you’ll be sore consistently, even when you’re resting.
Swelling in the Lower Legs
Swelling isn’t always that commonly seen, but you may experience other symptoms of swelling. This is what shin splints are, so you should expect some sort of inflammation in your lower legs.
You may notice the swelling more if you push on the lower legs. You may get an indent for a while, instead of seeing your skin or muscle bounce back.
If you don’t physically see the swelling, you may notice that your feet feel numb or weak. This is likely due to the swelling in the muscles cutting off the blood flow. Your feet don’t get the blood that they need, and there may be that pins and needle are feeling for seemingly no reason. Dead leg syndrome where you feel the need to stamp the foot down to wake it up is another problem with inflammation.
The Tests to Determine Shin Splints
Now you know the symptoms, it’s time to look at ways to test to see if it is shin splints and not another problem. You can check by squeezing the lower part of your leg around the shin bone. You may find that it changes shape and there are indents a little like a wet sponge. Eventually, the shin muscles will return to normal, but it takes time.
As mentioned before, this is the swelling in your legs. There is fluid building up, which gives you that wet sponge look. Doctors will usually do this to see how bad the swelling is and determine the severity of your shin splints.
You will need to speak to a doctor because major swelling is bad for the body. You’re not just creating pressure on the nerves, but you’re causing problems for blood flow. The ability to exercise regularly isn’t always going to be easy because you must deal with the pain, numbness, and discomfort.
Some exercises find that temporary treatments tell them if they’ve got shin splints. Following the treatments help to reduce the swelling, so you don’t experience the pain and discomfort. But when you go back to exercising regularly, you will likely notice the same symptoms again.
Treating Shin Splints Effectively
So, let’s look at how to treat your symptoms to see if you can eliminate the symptoms, even just temporarily. You’ll need the temporary relief to know if it could be shin splints to talk to your doctor about it.
You want to take steps to reduce the swelling. The best way to do that is by elevating your legs. This means you have the perfect excuse to put your feet up and relax. Try to get your legs above your heart to help bring the blood flow back down and reduce the fluid within your legs.
While you may not be able to sit for that long with your legs up, you can put an ice pack on them instead. The ice will help to soothe the burning sensation that you can get in your legs and ease some of that pain. Your body draws the blood vessels in and can help to reduce fluid retention.
Some people find that ice makes the pain worse, so try some heat on the legs to get the blood flowing better. You may find that the heat eases some of the sensitivity in the muscles to give you the chance to massage the area. A heat rub will be an excellent way to kneed your muscles gently and improve the blood flow to reduce the swelling.
Bandages around your legs can also help. The bandages will help to support your muscles and the bones in your lower leg. Consider using them when you’re exercising to help reduce the stress that you put on the areas.
A relaxing bath after your workout may also help to repair the muscles. Don’t forget to use some relaxing Epsom salts or essential oils to help promote the anti-inflammatory response within your body. Some people who do a lot of exercises opt for an ice bath instead. This can help to reduce inflammation in the body and promote healing, but it’s not going to be the most enjoyable bath you take! It’s up to you if you want to do this.
When you’re at the end of your tether with the pain, consider taking over the counter information. Sometimes your body’s own pain killing hormones aren’t good enough, so temporary uses of over the counter medication are needed.
Make Some Changes to Your Diet to Support Your Muscles
Start using more foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory. These include the likes of coconut oil and various fruits and vegetables. Coconut oil can be applied directly to the area, and you can massage it into the area. You can replace your anti-inflammatory medication with the right fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients.
Don’t forget about getting protein, too. This is essential to help the repair of your muscles after exercise. You’ll find that the stress of pounding the pavement or floor won’t affect your muscles as much since they don’t need as long to repair after a workout.
These are your long-term options. They will require some effort, and you need to stick to the change to your diet. The good news is the change to your diet will support your fitness capabilities.
Do You Have Shin Splints?
It is possible that you have shin splints. They are common in people who do a lot of exercises, especially exercise that involves the feet hitting the pavement hard. Runners, soccer players, and tennis players are among the most common fitness fanatics to suffer from the pain associated with shin splits.
You don’t need to completely stop your exercising if you have them. Try less intense workouts for your legs. Swimming, rowing, and cycling are all excellent alternatives while you fix the problem with shin splits. You may also find that they are more effective for your weight loss and health.