Have you ever had shin splints? You would know it if you did. Shin splints cause pain in your shins (I'm sure you guessed that one). It hurts when you are exercising or walking longer distances. The pain gets worse as you continue to exercise. It may even make you have to stop running.
I had the pleasure of treating a woman in her 40’s who loves to work out every day. She runs, does CrossFit, and even some Zumba. But for years she always had pain while exercising. After working out for a short time, she would get sharp pain in her shins. At first this pain would make her stop what she was doing. Over time, however, her determination to exercise caused her to ignore her pain and she kept going.
Even with her "mind over matter" approach, the pain worsened. She finally had to come to my office to see if there was a way to get relief.
She had already tried:
- Anti-inflammatory medication taken before she exercised
- Applying ice after exercise
- Massage to loosen up the muscles and tendons
- New running shoes
- Off-the-shelf insoles to give her support when she worked out
It sounds like she covered all her bases, doesn’t it? But she had a sneaky culprit dragging her down: shin splints.
What are Shin Splints?
Let’s take a minute and discuss what shin splints are. You've probably heard of them, especially if you run. But you may not know exactly why they hurt so much. Here's the deal: shin splints occur when the muscle attaching to the shinbone becomes inflamed. It is an overuse injury, which is why you’ll often feel it when you are exercising or running. The muscle is being used too much and ends up needing more resources sent to it, like blood carrying oxygen. That’s why it becomes inflamed. It’s trying to slow you down. And it often succeeds.
Now, remember, you have two bones in your shin area: the tibia and fibula. To find your tibia, touch the front of your shin (where you usually feel those shin splints. This bone is in front of your leg; it's longer and thicker than the fibula, which we'll talk about in a minute.
The tibia has a big job, which is why it often gets in trouble. This bone takes all the pressure when you stand, walk, run or do CrossFit. At the top, it connects to your knee. At the bottom, it meets up with your ankle. And, because it takes on so much pressure, it's one of the most commonly fractured or injured bones in your body.
Unfortunately, the tibia seems to love company. When you break your shin bone, the fibula often comes along for the ride. About 75% of broken tibulas include broken fibulas too. So let's take a closer look at the fibula.
What is the Fibula?
First, its location: the narrow fibula sits beside your tibia. It's on the left hand side of your left tibia and the right hand side of your right one. YOu won't feel your fibula if you touch your shin because it sits behind that muscle tissue which gets inflamed with shin splints. But you'll sure know it's there if you get an injury!
Of course, you probably didn't need this reminder. Chances are, you've got a problem with your tibia if you're facing shin splints. But I know that doctor speak can be scary sometimes. So I like to offer a little medical background when explaining injuries. I hope it helps you understand what's going on with your body. And why I choose the treatments that help you heal. Which is where we were before I got sidetracked. And what I'll get back to right now!
Successful Houston Shin Splints Treatment
Remember my patient in pain? I want to make it clear that everything she tried before coming into the office was right. In fact, those are the steps I tell my patients to take when we first discuss their shin splints. But, because she wasn't feeling better, we did make a few changes.
First of all, I recommended a more regular course of anti-inflammatory medication. This helps keep a consistent level of medication in the body. Which means your medication can do a better job of fighting and healing all that painful inflammation. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication only before exercise is not usually effective.
I also evaluated my patient for a pair of custom orthotics. The orthotics made her feet more stable. They also made her muscles work in a more efficient way. Why was that important? It meant her muscles had less work to do when she was exercising, which got rid of her overuse problem. As a result, she had no more pain from shin splints. Finally, pain relief success for my Houston CrossFitter!
After years of powering through the pain, running without pain made her feel like she was floating on air. She was thrilled that the fix was simple. And she was really happy that she didn’t need injections or surgery. You can have the same results that she did! Stop ignoring the pain when you exercise and come into the office so we can talk things over. You’ll be glad you did. Especially when you get back to your favorite activties, without that nagging pain to slow you down!