What Causes Shin Splints?

April 30, 2024
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Shin splints happen when the front part of your lower leg hurts, usually because you have been doing a lot of running, dancing, or intense exercises. They’re more likely to bother you if you have started working out harder or differently than usual.

Wonder: “What causes shin splints?” It’s your muscles, tendons, and the overworked bone in your leg. They are a common overuse trauma.

Types of Shin Splints

Shin splints are often described using fancy words like “anterior,” “medial,” or “posterior,” which just talk about where the pain is in your leg—like front, middle, or back. But really, shin splints are all about feeling pain in the front part of your lower legs because you have been pushing them too hard. Most of the time, the pain shows up on the inner side of your shin.

What are the 5 Symptoms of Shin Splints?

The 5 commonly known symptoms of shin splints include:

  • Shins that hurt upon touch
  • Dull pain on the front of one or both of your shins radiating downward
  • Shin pain that increases after activity
  • Pain that subsides after rest
  • Mild to moderate swelling in the bottom part of the legs

Complications of Shin Splints

Shin splints usually don’t cause big problems, but if you keep pushing yourself without giving your legs a break, they could get worse and turn into something called a stress fracture. That’s when tiny cracks happen in your bone. To fix a stress fracture, doctors might suggest using crutches or wearing a special boot until your bones get better.

Who Gets Shin Splints?

Anyone can develop shin splints. However, groups at higher risk include:

  • Runners, especially those who run on bumpy surfaces or suddenly increase their running.
  • Athletes who play sports that really put pressure on their legs.
  • Dancers.
  • People with flat feet, super high arches, or really stiff arches. If your feet don’t absorb shock well, you’re more likely to get shin splints.
  • Military folks and others who do a ton of marching or walking.
  • Folks who wear flimsy shoes when they work out.
  • People who walk super long distances.
  • Anyone with low vitamin D, an eating problem, or irregular periods.
  • People with weak bones from conditions like osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Prevention of Shin Splints

You can avoid shin splints with the help of the following tips:

  • Analyze How You Move: Watch a video to check out how you run. It can help spot any moves that might lead to shin splints. Sometimes, a small change in how you run can lower your chances of getting them.
  • Don’t Overdo It: Avoid pushing yourself too hard. Doing too much running or other tough activities for too long and too intensely can put too much strain on your shins.
  • Pick the Right Shoes: Change your shoes every 350 to 500 miles if you run. It’s like giving your feet a fresh start.
  • Think About Arch Supports: Arch supports can be a big help, especially if your arches are flat. They can keep your feet comfy and lower your risk of shin splints.
  • Try Cushioned Insoles: These can make your shins feel better and stop shin splints from returning.
  • Go Easy on Your Shins: Mix things up with sports like swimming, walking, or biking. They’re easier on your shins. Just take it slow when you start something new.
  • Get Strong: Strengthen your legs, ankles, hips, and core. It can help your legs handle tough activities better.

Bottom Line

Shin splints aren’t usually a big deal, but it’s important to rest and let them heal. Understanding “what causes shin splints?” can help you prevent them. If the pain keeps going, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure it’s not a stress fracture.

Visit Dr. M. Gombera at Mufaddal Gombera, MD. Our board-certified fellowship-trained surgeon focuses on the modern treatment of sports-related injuries of the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. Call us at (713) 794-3457 to book an appointment.

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Dr. Gombera

Dr. Gombera, earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and completed his orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Michigan. Expanding his expertise, he undertook a sports medicine and arthroscopy fellowship at Northwestern University in Chicago. Recognized as a Super Doctors Rising Star and honored for patient care excellence at the University of Michigan, he holds multiple certifications and licenses, solidifying his dedication to delivering exceptional medical services.

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