Medical FAQ

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What do a trail runner, a soccer player, and (probably at least once) you have in common? Shin splints. It’s a cringe-worthy truth, but don’t endure the pain any longer! Dr. Shine John of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists is here to save the day on what causes this painful injury and how to prevent shin splints from delaying your active lifestyle. 


What is a shin splint?

The technical or medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), which essentially describes a “bone pain,” and refers to an inflammation of the lining on the tibia bone. When that area of the bone becomes inflamed, it almost feels like a pull or tear from the inner part of the tibia. This can create a sharp and achy sensation, a tearing sensation, or even feel as though someone has repeatedly taken a hammer to your shin. High arch, no arch—the foot-type does not relate to shin splints, as it can affect anyone who potentially overuses that muscle or employs bad mechanics. 

What are the most common sports and activities where shin splints can occur?

Soccer players and trail runners tend to have the most common issues with MTTS, but it can affect anyone whether they’ve just started working those muscles or have been active for a while. The difference of terrain, the constant moving and pivoting, and especially up or downhill variables cause change in position and can cause inflammation. Your body is constantly adapting, so it’s important to train and prepare your muscles for that type of activity.

What is the best way to heal a shin splint? How can you prevent them?

If you experience a shin splint, I recommend having it evaluated fairly immediately. Allowing it to linger and attempting to work through the pain can only cause more damage to that inflammation. If the cause is something you are not doing correctly, it’s best to identify it as soon as you can. Even if it feels as though your muscle is healing, one day an activity could lead to the pain again, so you want to break that cycle and heal from the root of the problem. If certain exercises aren’t good for you, let’s figure out ones that are. If your usual brand of shoes isn’t helping, let’s upgrade. If it’s a matter of symmetrics and one limb is longer than the other, that’s something a physician will be able to help you with. 

Can you continue in your regular workout regimen when suffering from a shin splint?

In most cases, I recommend taking at least two weeks off to heal your injury. If you attempt to keep working out as you try to heal your shin splints, the pain will always be ahead. It’s important to bridge that gap and get to the point of being more healthy and comfortable before you go back into your routine.

Any last advice to fight off shin splints before race season?

When it comes down to it, it’s best to slowly integrate into an active lifestyle rather than jumping into it. If you go from being inactive to “going for it,” it’s very likely you will hurt yourself. It never hurts to get an evaluation and ensure everything is in good order and there aren’t any causes for potential injury that could delay you. Lastly, there are specific strengthening exercises you can integrate into your practice that help your chance of avoiding MTTS, such as wall shin raises, single-leg raises, heel step-downs, and rhythm bounding.

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