If you’re starting a new sport, changing activity, or rapidly increasing the amount of exercise that you normally do, pressure can start to build up in the muscle compartments around the shin, resulting in shin pain. Shin splints and stress fractures are two of the most common sources of pain in this part of the body. Both are overuse injuries, but stress fractures are the more severe of the two injuries.
So, how do you know which one you have and how you should treat it?
- Shin splints refer to microtears in the bone and muscle tissue along the shinbone (tibia). With shin splints, you will most likely experience a shooting pain in the shin along the lower part of the leg that only presents while exercising. The pain will go away when you stop or lower the intensity of the activity. For example, you shouldn’t feel any pain when walking.
- Stress fractures refer to tiny cracks in the lower leg bones (tibia or fibula). With stress fractures, you will most likely feel pain whether you’re running or walking. Additionally, you may also notice swelling and feel pain or discomfort if you press on the shin.
If you feel mild shin pain during or immediately after exercise, try treating it with rest, ice, and elevation. However, if your shin is still bothering you after a few weeks, if the pain gets stronger, or if you feel pain even when performing everyday activities, you should see a doctor.
A foot and ankle specialist can determine whether you have shin splints or stress fractures and recommend the best course of treatment. This may include rest, applying ice to reduce swelling, avoiding high-impact activities, running only on a specific type of surface, or avoiding activities altogether for a time to allow the injury to heal.
Are you experiencing shin pain? Let us help you find the source of your pain and get you back to your optimal health. Contact our office today for an appointment with a foot and ankle specialist in San Antonio or Austin.