How To Tell If You Have Shin Splints
Shin splints are a general term for pain in the front of your shins, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome or anterior tibial stress syndrome. If your shins are achy, sore, and tender with activity, then you might have shin splints.
Shin splints often start after you do a new activity, after taking a longer break from an activity you do regularly, or change in activity (milage, distance, surface, intensity, duration, different shoes). This is a common complaint of runners, especially beginners, and those that do activities on hard surfaces with frequent stops and starts (think basketball, racquet sports, etc). Shin splints can also be from over use of the muscle in the front of your shin, tightness calf muscles, weakness in hips/gluts and core changing the mechanics of the leg/foot, over pronation/flat feet, and high ridged arches.
So if you have shin splints how do you get rid of them? The easiest things to do are ice and rest. Rest doesn’t mean stopping all activity but modifying what you do. It might mean a decrease in your milage, intensity, or cross training for some or all of your work outs (bike, elliptical, aqua jogging, swimming). Some people have found relief in neoprene shin sleeves, wraps, or taping of shins to manage their symptoms. It is also important to incorporate some calf stretching, shin stretching, and ankle strengthening and range of motions exercises like simple ankle ABC exercises. Often times shin splints can be a bit more complicated to treat and that is where a skilled physical therapist can come in. The PT can address your specific weakness with targeted strengthening, suggest orthotics/inserts and shoe changes if warranted, check your running mechanics, and provide hands on treatment that will help get rid of your pain faster and back at the activities you love sooner.
There are two medical issues that initially may resemble shin splints with pain in the shin area but upon closer look are entirely different; stress reaction/fractures, and compartment syndrome (traumatic and chronic). Stress fractures tend to be tender on the bone in a very small localized area. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is painful, you may looses strength in your shin/foot muscles (foot drop) and decrease pulse in their foot that can start immediately to 15mins of activity. A physical therapist can help you identify these conditions as well and if necessary point you in the right direction for referrals.