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We prize speed in all its forms: quick meals, fast runners, prompt service, and speedy cars. We don’t like waiting for traffic lights or getting caught behind slow semis. Unfortunately, we pay a price for all this swiftness. Our tension and blood pressure rise, we snarl at customer service reps, and our stomachs roil with indigestion from gobbling down fast food meals. Even something good like exercising can cause a problem like shin splints if we hurry too much and don’t take time to do it right.

What Are Shin Splints and Why Did I Get Them?

The medical term is medial tibial stress syndrome, or MTSS. It refers to pain that affects the tissues that lie along the inside edge of the shin bone—the tibia. Why they are called “splints” is unclear, but they usually occur during and after exercise, especially with a sudden increase or change in routine. Your leg muscles are used to a certain level of activity. When you suddenly ask more from them than usual, they protest by sending pain signals to your brain.

For example, your job may have you sitting in front of a computer all day, and you realize that may not be healthy. One day you decide to get moving during your break, so you go outside and make a mad dash around the parking lot to get your blood going. Unfortunately, by the time you get back to your chair, your shins may be aching. Repeat the exercise a few times and they will hurt even worse, until the thought of dashing anywhere makes you cringe.

How to Avoid Shin Splints

If you think you need more activity, or you want to up your training level for a big race, take it slow and easy. Start with a walking routine and build up speed gradually before you try a short run. When training, make a small increase in your intensity or distance, and stay at that level for a week to see how your body is handling it before increasing it again.

Shoes can have a big impact on this condition. If yours are worn out or do not have good support for your arch, make the investment in a new pair. Take time to find out what arch type you have and whether it could be contributing to your painful shins. If you are a runner, you may be able to avoid the problem by using a custom orthotic designed to correct any imbalances in your feet.

Other Causes of Shin Pain

If you follow these guidelines but the discomfort continues, you will want to come into Axis Foot & Ankle Clinic and let Dr. Andrew Irvine take a look. We can rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures (tiny crack in the shin bone) or tendinitis (inflammation or tiny tears in the tendons that attach muscle to bone).

Don’t Ignore the Pain—Treat It

We can recommend many things to relieve the pain, but the most important thing to do is rest. The damaged tissue simply must have time to heal, so stop the activity that is painful. Your can try icing your shins for 15 minutes several times a day, to reduce swelling and chill the pain. Stretching or massaging the leg muscles may also bring relief and keep your tissues warmed up. Flexible muscles are less likely to be injured in the first place. Once your pain is gone, be sure to ease back into activity very slowly, gradually conditioning your legs to handle the increased activity. Always warm up before you exercise and stretch gently before and after activity to keep the tendons and muscles limber.

If you think you may have shin splints, call Axis Foot & Ankle Clinic in Calgary, AB, at (403) 477-3338 and set up a consultation at one of our three locations: Deer Valley Family Medical Clinic, Pacific Place Medical Clinic, or Scenic Acres Medical Clinic. We want to help you enjoy your activities and keep in shape without having to worry about painful legs. Keep in touch and get more foot health tips by visiting our Facebook page.

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