How To Heal A Shin Stress Fracture
“Shin splints, also called stress fractures or tibial stress injuries, are painful, swollen bumps on the bottom of the foot near the ankle bone. The most common cause is running; other causes include jumping, biking, walking up hills, playing basketball, skiing, hiking, tennis — even dancing can lead to them. They usually occur in people who run long distances or perform repetitive motions such as ballet dancers, gymnasts and runners.
The bones that make up our feet contain many tiny holes called pores, which allow blood vessels to pass through to supply nutrients to the skin and connective tissue underneath. When these tiny pores become blocked due to injury or disease, they form a hematoma. This blood clot causes an infection that irritates surrounding nerves and soft tissues. Painful inflammation may spread up the leg all the way to the knee if not treated properly.
Shin splints usually develop after one day to two weeks of intense physical activity. Initially, symptoms resemble those of a bruise — redness, tenderness and swelling. As time goes by, however, the area becomes increasingly inflamed and sensitive to touch, sometimes becoming hot to the touch. Once a shin splint develops, it’s often difficult to get rid of because the patient continues to use the affected limb. It usually takes about six weeks before patients seek medical attention. This delay makes treatment more complicated than treating a simple bruise.
When should I take my break?
A shin splint can be very uncomfortable and limit mobility. Taking a break from high-impact activities until you’ve completely recovered will help prevent further damage. If you have a history of shin splints, talk with your doctor so she can determine how severe your condition really is. For chronic cases, she might prescribe physical therapy to strengthen weak muscles around the shins. She’ll also want to know what kind of sports or exercise you were doing when you first noticed the problem.
Walking down stairs or climbing into bed at night can aggravate a shin injury. You should elevate your injured leg above your heart whenever possible. If this isn’t practical, apply ice packs to the shin and put a heating pad under the bandage.
What do I need to treat myself at home?
If you experience sudden sharp pain during normal daily activities like standing up after sitting or walking, then you probably have a minor sprain. Minor sprains involve only a few joints, and generally don’t require any special care beyond rest, ice and elevation. Soaking in a tub or shower won’t worsen the situation. However, if you have a moderate or major sprain, ask your doctor. In addition to soaking the joint in water, doctors recommend elevating the injured part to reduce swelling. Some experts suggest wrapping the joint in a thin cloth dampened with camphor oil (a natural antiseptic), but this has never been proven scientifically.
How do I avoid getting shin splints in the future?
Some things you can do to prevent shin splints include:
Drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after workouts. Dehydration leads to muscle fatigue, which increases risk of injury
Strengthening core abdominal muscles to stabilize hips and knees
Eating foods rich in calcium and protein, such as milk, yogurt and lean meat
Healing shin splints requires patience and rest. Don’t expect quick results. Be sure to follow your doctor’s protocol for recovery, whether it involves strengthening exercises, icing, medicated ointments or putting your foot in a cast.
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Shin splints aren’t just limited to athletes. About 15 percent of women between ages 20 and 60 suffer from different types of foot problems including bunions, hammertoes and neuromas. These are conditions that affect the structure of the foot, resulting in inflammation and discomfort [sources: Mayo Clinic].”
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