Shin Splints, Anyone?

Dear Reader;
This is the third in our four installments on sports injuries.  Basketball season is underway so we are talking about the four most common injuries associated with basketball.
This week’s topic is shin splints.  While shin splints are a basketball injury, they are also a common running injury.
You can tell you have shin splints when there is pain in the front of your leg along the bone. The pain can start during or after exercise.  The pain starts when the muscles and surrounding bone tissue are overworked.  Whether you have picked up your activity level suddenly or have extended your exercise time dramatically, either can be the source of the problem.  Your body needs to adjust to the increases in activity.
Do you remember slinkys?  They were a thin piece of metal that was coiled like a spring.  If you used the slinky properly, you could have it go down stairs or pull it apart and it would spring back.  But it you were like me, you always pulled it too far and you ruined the slinky.  Think of your muscles like slinkys.  You can pull them slowly and they will bounce back but if you suddenly extend them as far as possible, they will not work right and they will hurt.
One other cause of shin splints is flat feet.  Yes, flat feet can cause shin splints.  When you have flat feet, the muscles in your legs must work differently and that puts additional stress on them.  Also, if you have rigid arches it can cause shin splints.  In these cases, orthotics can help you.  They will adjust for your foot structure and make your foot strikes more even.  You will find it much more comfortable to play basketball.  So, if you have flat feet or rigid arches, you should make a quick trip to your friendly podiatrist for some custom orthotics.  Your feet will feel so much better.
In sports, especially sports where you are running and jumping, it is important that your shoes are appropriate for the sport and that the shoes are fitted for your foot.  Ill fitting shoes can also contribute to shin splints.  You wouldn’t play basketball with a catcher’s mitt so don’t play basketball in running shoes.
What do I do to stop this?
I know you will find this hard to believe but it is time for rest.  Depending on how much pain you are in, you may need to rest for several weeks.  Then you can start back slowly but if it hurts, stop right away.  You might want to do some cross training so that you can still exercise but use different muscles.  But when you start back, you need to make sure you warm up and build your stamina.
If after resting for a couple of weeks, the pain is still bothering you, it is time to head to the doctor.  Your friendly local podiatrist can listen to you describe the pain and its history, the doctor can look and feel the tender area, and perhaps do an x-ray.  The doctor might do an x-ray to determine if perhaps along with injuring the muscles, you have a stress fracture in your leg.  You and the doctor can then discuss the best course of action to get you back up and playing.
Just as a note –
As it gets colder here in the Midwest, I think more and more about staying home where it is nice and warm.  Also, with the end of the year coming up, it is a great time to schedule appointments to fix bunions, hammers toes, and infected toe nails.  You can use the time off at the end of the year to recover and you will then be all set for next summer.  So, now that you have hit your deductible, it is time to get your tootsies all set.  Everyone can then rave about your beautiful feet.
Trivia Question of the week–The slinky was the invention of  Richard James.  It debuted at Christmas time in 1945 at what department store?
Find the answer on our Facebook page – Evanston Podiatric Surgeons – on Friday, November 23rd.  While you’re there, please take a moment to “like” us.
Follow us on twitter – @EvPodiatric and the answer will be tweeted on Friday morning.

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