Every year, you may notice that during the change of seasons, more athletes come into the clinic with shin pain. Why is that?
If you are engaged in athletics or other sports, you need to be prepared for the injuries that can be caused. But at the same time, you need to know the causes of the injuries and how to prevent them. This section covers shin splits vs stress features, as they are the common injuries among athletes, especially among endurance athletes. They can occur due to training errors and running too much or too quickly. Other than that they are other common reasons for such injuries. But how do you know whether it is a shin splint or stress fracture?
Here we will explain the differences between the two shin splints vs stress fractures, and how you can prevent and treat them?
Most commonly parents, trainers, and coaches will have knowledge about the shin splint phenomenon which is medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome. This is the first thing that comes to mind when an athlete complains about shin pain. The problem here is that shin pain isn’t always as simple. Sometimes it can be a bigger problem at hand. So this is why you need to know about shin Splint vs stress fracture. Because one is often mistaken to be the other and this ultimately causes more harm than good.
What is Shin Splints vs stress fracture?
Whether your shin pain is due to shin splints or a stress fracture, make sure that no matter what it is important to not keep the training the same way. Instead take steps to heal and avoid making the injury worse.
Shin splints medically called medial tibial stress syndrome, are an inflammation of the bone tissue, muscles, and tendons, around the tibia, or skin bone. This is common among new runners, runners returning to the sport after a long break and runners who have rapidly increased the intensity of their training.
When you experience a shin splint, the pain is usually along the inner edge of the shinbone and it typically develops after the physical activity. This is often linked with running but any other vigorous sports activity will bring on shin splints like starting a fitness program.
When you get a shin splint, you will experience aching pain, and shooting in front of your lower leg when running. But this pain goes away, when you lower your intensity, after finishing running, or when you stop running. When your fingers run along the shin bone, it will usually hurt through the entire area. When suffering from shin splints, you will not feel the pain with other activities like stretching, walking, or climbing stairs.
This is a partial fracture of the bone. It is simply a small crack or group of cracks that form in the bone itself. You usually find one specific spot or multiple spots that hurt really badly. The stress fracture most commonly occurs in the lower part of the tibia. You will experience pain when walking or sitting. The pain of stress fracture is deep, and a throbbing pain when compared to the pain of shin splints.
It will be more painful and will occur with regular activities like walking, climbing stairs, or sitting. It is simply known as an overuse injury, where the bone will be unable to withstand a repetitive mechanical loading.
This most commonly occurs in runners, dancers, gymnasts, and athletes who are engaged in high-impacted sports like track and field, tennis, and basketball.
The causes of Shin splints and stress fracture
Why do people get Shin splints?
People get shin splints due to the repeated stress in the shin bone by pulling and tugging the muscles and connective tissues in the lower leg. When you go through frequent, and repetitive pressure from jumping and running, it causes the shin boned to be irritated and swollen while weakening it. Anyone who starts a new exercise routine or increases their sports activities too quickly will be prone to develop shin splints.
Other athletes who wear shoes that don’t fit well or provide good support to the leg will have the possibility to get shin splints. If you work out with warmup or cooldown stretches, or if you have weak hips, ankles, or core muscles, you are prone to get this injury. when the bone does not have time to heal, the damage will get worse and it will cause severe pain.
Symptoms – People with shin splints will experience lower leg pain while running, especially when they are running at faster speeds. But they do not cause any pain while walking or during daily activities that do not involve running. Once the running is stopped, the pain would go away.
Why do people get stress fractures?
Stress fractures can occur due to two types of factors. One is the extrinsic factor, that happens outside the body and the other is the intrinsic factor that happens inside the body.
Extrinsic factors can be environmental. when you practice the Sports techniques incorrectly, changing the surface you exercise on, like from a soft surface to outside concrete, too rapid training programs, using improper Footwear, running on a track, or doing repetitive activity in High-Impact Sports are extrinsic factors that cause stress fractures. Other than that, if you have a poor diet with less calorie intake, and low vitamin D levels will also be prone to these injuries. Youth especially those who are specialized in one sport and do it without a break are at the risk of getting stress fractures.
The other type is the intrinsic factor. This includes age, weight, gender, and other medical conditions. The old athletes we’ll have underlying bone density issues. Their already weakened bone will develop a stress reaction soon.
When someone with a low BMI or high BMI doing repetitive loading with their body weight would be at risk for injuries. Females who have irregular menstrual periods or no periods will get stress fractures. Other people with osteoporosis or other diseases that weaken the bone will not be able to do their workouts.
Symptoms – People get pain while running, but with time, runners will experience pain while walking and doing other activities. If the pain is deep, you will feel it even when you are resting. It will be at one spot, more than spreading over other small areas.
Treatment for shin splints vs stress fractures
How to cure shin splints?
There are ways to cure and prevent shin splints. If you take several weeks of rest from the activity that causes the pain it will heal. You can replace those activities with low-impact types like swimming, or using a stationary bike during your recovery process.
You can go with treatments that include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the pain and swelling. You can add arch supports to your running shoes to help if you have flat feet. Make sure not to overdo the exercise routine. After getting cured, you should be pain-free for at least 2 weeks. When you return to exercise start with a lower level of intensity. Do not exercise as often as you did before or for the same length of time. Before you exercise, be sure to warm up and stretch thoroughly.
Increase the training slowly and if you start to feel the same pain stop it immediately. You can rest for a day or two by using a cold pack.
How to prevent a shin splint?
- You need to run on soft surfaces because when you run on hard surfaces like concrete, you need to put a lot of extra stress on the muscles, bones, and joints. Try to run on grass, or dirt trials, especially when you are running longer.
- When running, If you experience shin pain, it is because of the weak anterior tibialis muscles, which run along the front side of your lower leg and are responsible for flexing the foot at the ankle. If you’re new to running or if you increase your distance too quickly, you may start feeling the pain in this area. Do some simple stretching exercises like heel raises or toe raises to help strengthen the calf and shin muscles.
- Running in shoes that have lost their cushioning is one of the most common causes of shin splints. Wearing the wrong shoes can cause shin splints. So before running check your shoes to see if you need more stability. To do this, you can get advice from experts who run specialty stores and find out whether you are wearing the right shoes or not. Replace the running shoes every 350 to 500 miles. You can also use over-the-counter shoe inserts so that your calves don’t have to stretch as far.
- Try to avoid running two days in a row. Take some rest as it will limit the pounding on your muscles, bones, and joints. And it will give your body a chance to recover. Take at least one or two days off from the risk of shin splints and other overuse injuries.
How to cure stress fractures?
It is important for you to treat a stress fracture. If you think that you have a stress fracture the first thing to do is rest. Because if it is not treated, the fracture will get worse. If it is not healing properly, it will lead to arthritis or may want to have surgery. Do not ignore the pain, because it can lead to serious problems in the future. So it is important to see a doctor when you start feeling the pain. Schedule an appointment to see the doctor, and follow the guidelines he or she gives you to prevent further injury.
A stress fracture can be treated in many ways. The treatments would be based on the location and severity of your fracture. Your doctor will recommend you stop the activity that is causing pain. Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes or do an ice massage for 3 to 5 minutes to the injured area. Rest for at least 2 to 8 weeks. With the recommendation of your doctor, do some non-impact exercises. If you perform low-impact activities for extended periods without pain, you can start to do high-impact exercises. Have some physical therapy to return to activities and make adjustments to avoid reinjury.
If there is a swelling in your leg, foot, or ankle, adjust your position. The swelling can be lessened by elevating the leg and raising your foot above the level of your heart while lying on your back. to help relieve the pain, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. until the bone heals, use crutches to keep the weight off your foot or leg.
How to prevent stress fracture?
- Make training adjustments. Because if you dramatically change the frequency, intensity, or duration of your workouts, it can raise the risk for stress fractures. You can add time and intensity little by little over the course of weeks or even months. Runners who want to safely increase their mileage can follow the 10% rule, and they should not increase more than 10% of the total from week to week.
- To prevent stress fractures, nutrients like Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health. So you need to make sure that you’re getting the recommended daily amount of nutrients for your gender and age. If you want to add supplements you can go with the advice of your doctor.
- If you have no off-season and engage in one sports activity year-round, then you are at increased risk of getting stress fractures. Especially children whose bodies are still developing will be at risk. So you need to do cross-training.
- When you switch the surface from running on a treadmill to a road, stress fractures can be triggered. So be careful when you are switching them.
- Do not ignore the pain, because it is a signal that something is not right. So when you feel the pain, or feel something is not right, you need to stop running. Look for other injury signs like swelling on the foot, ankle, or a spot on those areas.
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