By: Sean Dorman, DPT
The term shin splints have been a plague to the running community for what seems like eternity. It has been documented that 82% of runners experience injuries and it is well known that shin pain is one of the most common. So when do you know whether rest will cure the problem or if you need to seek further medical attention?
Shin splints involve inflamed muscles, tendons, and the thin layer of tissue that covers the bone. It is often painful enough to knock you to the sidelines for a while, but most cases can be effectively treated conservatively. Changing running routines, increasing distance too quickly, running on hard surfaces, or even improper footwear are common contributing factors to this impairment.
Shin splints are often confused with a more serious diagnosis known as anterior compartment syndrome (ACS), since they often present with similar symptoms. ACS is a condition in which pressure increases within the front compartment of the lower leg, which cuts off blood supply causing swelling and pain resulting in a possible medical emergency.
The following clues can assist with distinguishing between the two.
– In ACS, lower leg pain begins during exercises (not before) and lingers long after you finish. Shin splints often occur during the run and progressively worsen as the run continues and subsides quickly when you are done.
– In ACS pain is on the outside front of the lower. Shin splints are more likely to be on the front, inside of the lower leg.
– ACS can mimic nerve damage; numbness, tingling, pins and needles.
Physical therapists are experts in diagnosis and treatment of your musculoskeletal injury. Allow them to evaluate you to get the best advice to further your running careers.