Carlos R. Rodriguez, MD
Shin splints are a very common condition seen by our physicians at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Sports Medicine Clinic.
Shin splints are essentially caused by an irritation of the muscles of the lower leg as they insert into the shin bone (tibia) or from stress fractures that occur at the bone due to overuse. The pain is located over the front part of you shin and can occur both at rest and with exercise.
It typically occurs in runners who increase their mileage or the intensity of their running. It can also be caused by changing the surface on which you run. When you strike the ground the arch of your foot collapses some but in people the arch flattens out more than normal (overpronation) causing increase stress on the muscles of your lower leg and the shin bone. So, overpronation can increase the chances of you developing shin splints.
The physicians at the AllSports Medicine clinic will examine your lower leg and look for tenderness in front of your shin. We may also watch you walk and run to see of you have problems with overpronation and take x-rays of the leg to check for stress fractures. Sometimes the x-ray may not show a fracture and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) study may be ordered.
The treatment consists of icing or ice massage for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a day until the pain goes away, a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication, rehabilitative exercises, and if needed a prescription for orthotics. You will have to modify your sporting activities while being treated. We may also make some recommendations regarding footwear that will decrease your chances of developing shin splints again. Running on softer surfaces, proper warm up and stretching the muscles before and after exercising are also essential to help prevent this condition.
Our goal is to get you back to your sport as safely and quickly as possible. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better.