Person holding shin in pain due to spin splints

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our team is committed to addressing not just the symptoms of shin splints but their underlying cause. We take this comprehensive approach to ensure that our patients not only find relief from pain but also gain long-term health benefits and improved mobility. Understanding shin splints in depth can help you identify the condition early and seek appropriate care, enhancing your recovery process and reducing the risk of recurrence.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, technically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, refer to pain along the shinbone (tibia), the large bone at the front of the lower leg. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the shin. Splints are commonly associated with repetitive activities that place stress on the shins, leading to discomfort that can range from mild to debilitating.

Common Causes of Shin Splints

The root cause of shin splints is typically overuse or excessive force exerted on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach muscles to the bone. This overuse can stem from:

  • Engaging in high-impact activities like running or jumping, especially without proper conditioning.
  • Sudden changes in physical activity, such as increasing the intensity or duration of workouts without adequate preparation.
  • Exercising on hard or uneven surfaces, which increases the stress on the lower leg bones and muscles.

Risk Factors

Understanding the risk factors for this condition is essential for prevention. These factors include:

  • Biomechanical issues — Flat feet or abnormally high arches can increase the stress on the lower leg, leading to shin splints.
  • Inappropriate footwear Wearing shoes that lack proper support or are worn out can contribute to the development of shin splints.
  • Muscle imbalance Weakness in the lower leg muscles or an imbalance between the anterior and posterior leg muscles increases the likelihood of developing shin splints.
  • Inadequate conditioning — Beginning intense physical activity without proper conditioning can shock the shin tissues, resulting in inflammation and pain.

Diagnosing Shin Splints

Diagnosis begins with a comprehensive evaluation by one of our experienced physiatrists, who will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination. During the evaluation, the doctor will inquire about your exercise habits and any recent changes in activity level. Physical examination focuses on identifying tenderness along the inner part of the shinbone. In some cases, additional tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, may be necessary to rule out other conditions like stress fractures. 

How Our Practice Treats Shin Splints

We focus on alleviating pain and addressing the factors that may have contributed to the condition. Treatment plans may include:

  • Customized physical therapy consisting of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around the shin and improve flexibility, thus reducing stress on the shinbone.
  • Acupuncture, which is known to improve circulation, helps manage pain reduce inflammation, and kick-start the body’s natural healing process.
  • Orthotic devices to correct structural imbalances, distributing pressure more evenly and supporting the foot during movement.
  • Modification of activities to reduce duration and repetition of exercise routines to allow the affected area to heal while maintaining overall fitness.

Our skilled professionals will also provide you with guidance about how and where to exercise for the greatest positive results and how to build up your exercise regimen gradually so you do not suffer another setback of shin splints or some other intrusive injury.

How to Prevent Shin Splints

Prevention is key in managing shin splints. Here are strategies to help you avoid this painful condition:

  1. Gradually Increase Activity
    Avoiding sudden increases in exercise intensity or duration can help prevent shin splints and other painful consequences of overexertion. The trick is to build up your activity level to give your body time to adapt.
  2. Limit walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces which are more damaging to body tissues.
  3. Make sure to do exercises to strengthen and increase the flexibility of your lower leg muscles to prevent imbalances and reduce the risk of splints.
  4. Wear proper footwear (and possibly orthotics) for the activity you’re engaging in. This will provide your feet and legs with the support you need and counteract any biotechnical issues you may have. Also, replace your footwear regularly.
  5. Cross-train by incorporating low-impact activities, such as swimming or cycling, into your exercise routine to give your shins a break from high-impact sports.

Contact Our Highly Trained Pain Management Doctors Today

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physiatrists approach shin splints the same way we approach other musculoskeletal problems — holistically. We view our patients as whole human beings, not a conglomeration of body parts, so we are always working towards improving overall quality of life. Whether you come to us with shin splints, back pain, or tendonitis, we will provide you with the same individualized attention and personal concern. Contact us today to work with doctors who are eager to make you comfortable and keep you healthy.