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Shin splints : Causes and treatment with orthotics

What are shin splints?


There are many sorts of injuries that affect legs and feet. Some of them are serious and require urgent medical attention, such as fractures or tearing, and others, while painful, are less severe and can be treated without the aid of a specialist. However, if you are experiencing some sort of ache or discomfort, you should always make an appointment with your doctor to make sure that everything is alright.

Shin splints in particular are a not so uncommon case of this later type of injury. Although it’s often found in sportspeople and athletes – runners, jumpers, dancers – any person could undergo this condition at some point of their lives.

Shin splints are experienced as pain at the front of lower leg. This pain is placed around the shin bone (tibia) and is often induced by starting physical activity. Usually, sitting down or resting for a short while is enough to make the pain go, at least in the less serious cases of shin splints. 


What are the causes of shin splints?


Scientists and doctors are not sure yet about the exact mechanism that causes shin splints, though they have identified a series of risk factors that are involved in the genesis of this condition.

From a traumatological point of view, shin splints are an inflammation of the tissue. Some other conditions, that have nothing to do with inflammation, can cause a similar pain. To cite a few, blood accumulation issues and impact fractures – both much more serious conditions – can start out as lower leg pain. 

An excess of mechanical stress on the lower leg seems to be the main cause of shin splints. They are a common running injury, especially in runners who do not respect the proper running conditions. People are more likely to have shin splints when they run mostly up or downhill, when they run on hard or uneven surfaces, and without the proper footwear. Other causes of shin splint include obesity – because the weight overload on legs increases the mechanical impact of steps on the leg structure – and foot issues.

Legs and feet support the rest of the body, and therefore are designed to take quite a lot of weight and undertake mechanical impact. However, structural issues may have a strong effect on their overall capacity, thus making them unstable and vulnerable to physical damage when walking or running. In the same way a crooked column isn’t suitable for supporting a building, bent or weak legs, ankles and/or feet will cause a painful condition. 

Feet pronation is a structural arch problem where one or both feet are bent inwards, usually due to flat foot. This unnatural position overstresses the ankles as well as stretches the inner side of the lower leg more than normal. This stretching can damage the tissue and cause shin splints.


Treating shin splints


If you are experiencing leg pain due to shin splints, there are good news for you. The condition is easily treatable and you can perform most of such treatment at home, without the need of seeing a doctor. However, we strongly recommend that you get your legs checked before you start applying these suggested treatments. As we have stated, some conditions that are, in fact, much more serious than shin splints, could cause the same symptoms. See a doctor or traumatologist to confirm the diagnosis before trying to solve it by yourself.

applying an ice pack to the aching area is a good way to relieve pain, because it helps decrease the inflammation. In some extreme cases, if the pain resist to cold, your doctor could prescribe you some corticoids to reduce the inflammation. However, the cases when this is needed are very, very few.


Changing habits is another good way to fight shin splints. Reducing overweight, running on proper surfaces only and always doing at least five minutes of warm-up before starting your exercise routine will help you protect your shinbone and surrounding tissue from the mechanical impact of physical activity. As tissue affected in shin splints normally heals itself in a few weeks without any need of medical treatment, getting rid of the factors that caused pain in the first place, combined with some patience and pain relief techniques, is usually enough to make the aching go away.

A great method to prevent and cure shin splints is to correct the unnatural posture of feet when there is pronation, flat foot or a similar condition. orthotic therapy for shin splints corrects the foot arch and the position of both ankle and leg. This way, the shine is protected from excessive stretching and improper weight support.


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