What Does A Shin Splint Feel Like
“Shin splints are among the most common types of overuse injuries for runners and other athletes who participate in sports that involve jumping, running, walking or climbing stairs. The injury usually affects one of two areas on the outer part of the bone just below the knee joint – either at the medial (inner) or lateral (outer) site.
Shin splints occur because of abnormal stresses placed upon the bones during repetitive movements. When this happens, the ligaments connecting these bones become strained, resulting in pain and inflammation. The pain is caused by pressure being applied to the bone from an area with too little cartilage. This may be due to poor flexibility or muscle weakness at the point where the foot meets the leg. Other factors include excessive training intensity, lack of proper stretching before exercise, improper footwear, incorrect steps while climbing stairs, and not warming up enough before strenuous activity. If ignored, it could lead to more serious problems like arthritis and even osteoarthritis.
The best treatment depends upon the severity of symptoms. In some cases, if there is no significant discomfort after several days, then simply elevating the injured area above the level of the heart will help relieve the pain. Ice packs, heat therapy pads and compression stockings can also provide relief. However, in severe cases, a doctor may prescribe physical therapy, which includes strengthening exercises and stretches, as well as medications such as ibuprofen.
Read on to learn about the different kinds of shin splints, how they’re treated and what causes them.
Shin Splint Types
There are basically four types of shin splints: fibular head stress fractures, tibial tuberosity stress fractures, peroneal tendon strains and stress reactions. While all require medical attention, some heal quickly without any permanent damage, whereas others need surgery and/or prolonged rest.
Fibular Head Stress Fracture
This type occurs in the center of the bottom end of the fibula bone. It’s typically caused by sudden changes in direction while sprinting, changing directions while going up hills, or doing many repetitions of high-intensity workouts. Pain and tenderness may spread down the top half of the bone, and you may feel a popping sensation when the bone moves out of place. You’ll probably feel weak and unable to walk properly. There won’t be any blood involved, but instead, only fluid buildup under the skin.
Treatment involves resting the leg and applying ice packs until the pain eases. Doctors often recommend placing a towel between the calf and the ankle to promote drainage. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil, Naproxen sodium, Aleve, and Ibuprofen should also ease pain and reduce swelling. Physical therapists can also offer manual manipulation to improve movement patterns. Finally, once the patient feels better, he or she can begin walking using a cane or crutches.
Tibial Tuberosity Stress Fracture
This less serious type of shin splinter occurs on the backside of the tibia bone. As its name implies, it’s caused by the weight of the body pressing downward onto the front of the bone. Symptoms include pain and tenderness near the middle of the bone, with no apparent reason why. This kind of fracture requires special care because it doesn’t allow the bone to move far enough forward to meet the ball of the foot. Instead, the bone remains stuck underneath the arch. This condition prevents the foot from having full range of motion.
Doctors treat this kind of fracture through medication and physical therapy. They use various methods to encourage the bone to move forward, including ultrasound, electrical stimulation, massage and acupuncture. Since the affected area needs time to heal, patients must avoid putting additional weight on their legs during recovery.
Peroneal Tendon Strains
Strains of the peroneus longus tendon happen when muscles pull too hard on the tendons attached to the big toe and the outside of the foot. This results in painful rubbing sensations around the outer edge of the toes, especially when standing still. The worst symptom is a sharp pain shooting down the tendon toward the sole of the foot. Patients may also experience numbness in the toes, loss of balance and difficulty moving the big toe.
In most cases, doctors diagnose this problem when the patient has trouble standing on his or her feet. To prevent this, make sure your shoes fit correctly by trying them on with socks. Also, wear shoes made of soft materials, such as rubber. Do not step barefoot on wet surfaces, sand, gravel or grass. After removing the shoe, soak the foot overnight in warm water. Then apply an ice pack wrapped in a moist cloth to keep the area iced. Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen every six hours to control pain and fever. In addition, try wearing elastic support hose, which are easier to put on than custom-made ones.
These are similar to shin splints except that they don’t cause spraining or tearing of the tissue surrounding the bone. Instead, they affect the bone itself. These conditions generally develop after repeated trauma to the bone. Most people experience inflammation and tenderness when stepping on something unexpectedly rough or uneven, such as a pebble on the sidewalk. They may also hurt when bending the knee sharply. Unlike other types of shin splints, stress reactions do not usually cause immediate pain after injury; rather, it develops gradually over time.
Although they are not serious, stress reactions may sometimes need medical attention. Treatment involves resting the leg and applying ice packs to the area. Doctors may also prescribe ointments to reduce pain and swelling. Follow-up visits are necessary to monitor healing, since the injury may take several weeks to resolve completely.”
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