Shin Splints: Why Your Shins Burn

You may not realize how much pounding around every day affects your shins. Your feet and lower legs are connected, after all—and overuse can impact your shins just as much as your feet and ankles. Many athletes know this from first-hand experience with shin splints. This painful overuse injury can make your favorite activities incredibly uncomfortable and difficult.

Person Running on Road at Sunset

Feeling on Fire

Shin splints are a common problem for runners and dancers, though any active person could potentially develop them. They are characterized by inflammation and irritation in the soft tissues along the front of your lower legs, next to your shin bones. Repetitive stress aggravates the muscles and connective tissues attached there. This makes it increasingly painful for you to use those tissues in any way.

Typically, this shin pain manifests as a sharp, burning sensation in the front of your lower legs. Usually the pain appears when you exercise, and may persist for a little while after you stop. Eventually the discomfort does decrease with rest. The area may be tender to the touch and somewhat swollen. The more irritation that occurs, the longer it will take for the pain to decrease after you stop exercising.

Overworked

Shin splints are usually a simple case of overuse. Your feet and lower legs were not prepared to handle the stress you have put them under, so the tissues became inflamed. This is common among runners or other athletes who suddenly increase the difficulty of their workouts. It’s also common with inactive people who are starting a new exercise program.

Other factors might contribute to this kind of shin pain as well. Running in worn out shoes may strain your feet and your lower legs, particularly if they encourage overpronation. Biomechanical factors are also common. Flat feet and stiff arches don’t absorb pressure and hard impacts efficiently, which can then direct the excess damaging stress into your lower legs.

What to Expect from Shin Pain Treatment

You don’t want to ignore the problem and allow it to get worse. Because shin splints are an overuse injury, they don’t heal on their own. Shin pain treatment alleviates the inflammation and helps you recondition your feet and lower legs so you can return to your activities without discomfort. Our expert podiatrists at Podiatry Associates, P.C. will examine your lower limbs carefully to diagnose your condition and rule out similar problems. Then we’ll help you begin your recovery.

The most important treatment is rest. Although athletes don’t like this, sufficient rest without additional stress to aggravate your shins is important for the inflammation to heal. Take a break from all hard-impact activities and supplement them with low-impact ones, like swimming or biking. Ice your shins when they ache to alleviate swelling and inflammation as well. You might also benefit from compression bandages around your lower legs. We may recommend anti-inflammatory medications for you, too.

You may need to change your shoes and accommodate biomechanical problems as well. Replace all worn out pairs of shoes so you have the support and shock absorption you need. If you have arch or other biomechanical problems, you may need special orthotics to correct the problem and reduce the stress on your shins. Once the pain is gone, you can begin reconditioning your feet to handle your activities. This will mean stretches and strengthening exercises to build up your calves and muscles. Then you can ease back into your activities and slowly return to normal, conditioning your lower legs to handle the stress along the way.

Shin splint pain may be common for athletes, but that doesn’t mean you should learn to live with it. You can run, jump, dance, and be active without aching shins. Let our team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. in Castle Pines and Parker, CO, help you get there. Call (303) 805-5157 to make an appointment with us today.

Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC