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Shin Splints Vs. Stress Fractures

Shin Splints Vs. Stress Fractures

In this comparative analysis on shin splints vs stress fractures, you would be briefed with some facts which would help you differentiate between the two medical conditions, and also know what they share in common.
Rajib Singha
As a brief introduction, shin splints is the name of a condition that causes pain associated with the shin bone, also known as tibia. It is the thicker and the inner one of the two bones that lie between the knee and the ankle in human beings. This problem is typical of runners, and commonly bothers people who are regularly involved in activities that cause them to perform sudden stop and start movements. That is why, players of basketball, soccer or tennis, are known to stay more vulnerable to develop this condition. Stress fractures, on the other hand, can be associated with any type of bones in the body. These fractures refer to tiny cracks in the bones. Activities such as running and jumping increase the risk of developing this condition. Track and field athletes are known to be more susceptible to contract this condition
Differentiating Between Shin Splints and Stress Fractures
Shin Splints
As mentioned, this condition causes pain in the tibia. And the pain occurs when this bone endures too much force, or the tissues that connect the muscles to the tibia is subjected to repeated stress. Some activities which commonly cause this problem may include running downhill, running on slanted or uneven surfaces, using worn-out footwear, wearing improper fitting shoes, and activities which cause the person to suddenly start and stop frequently. Also, when someone runs or walks on a different surface from what he/she has been using or is used to, shin splints may occur. Increasing the level of training too fast without doing it gradually, may also be a cause.
Symptoms:
The main symptom is the pain that occurs in the front portion of the lower leg. However, this may be worsened by swelling, soreness, and tenderness in the same area. Initially, the pain may subside when the activity is ceased, but it may become continuous with time.
Treatment:
More often than not, shin splints may be dealt with some simple self-care measures at home, and these include rest, ice therapy, and elevation. It is needless to say that avoiding activities such as the ones mentioned above, and those that may increase the pain, helps in the recovery. However, that does not mean that the patient must go completely sedentary. While recovering from the condition, low key exercises such as swimming, or bicycling, may be good enough keep the person physically active.
Ice has long been used for reducing pain and swelling in different parts of the body, the same goes even with treating shin splints. Applying ice on the aching area for 15-20 minutes helps. For best results, it should be four to eight times a day, and must be continued for several days, until the pain begins to subside. It is recommended to use ice packs, or if ice cubes are used, then they should be wrapped in a thin towel.
Another way to minimize swelling is to use the elevation method. It is nothing but keeping the affected leg at a position that is the same or higher than that of the heart. For this, one can make use of soft pillows, while sitting or lying down.
Besides following the above measures, it is also important to wear shoes that provide maximum support to the arch, and proper cushioning, as well. Some patients may be recommended to wear shoe types that may suit the foot type of the patient, and the sport or any particular activity that he/she frequently indulges in. Some people may also benefit from using orthotics (shoe inserts).
Stress Fractures
These are tiny cracks in a bone which could be anywhere in the body, but most commonly, the bones in the lower leg and foot get affected; the tibia being a common example. These cracks indicate that the affected bones were subjected to repetitive application of force that was greater than what the bones were built to withstand. Activities like pitching or rowing may cause the same problem in bones in other parts of the body. People who are vulnerable to this condition are ones who have just started a new exercise, or who intensify the intensity level of their exercise in an abrupt fashion. This condition tends to be more common in women with irregular periods, and those osteoporosis.
Symptoms:
Swelling and pain in the area of the bone that has suffered the fractures, are common. However, they may subside or reduce with rest, but intensify with activity. The affected area may be tender to touch. With time, and without treatment, the pain may continue even while resting.
Treatment:
Stress fractures can be a source of great pain, but the condition is self-resolving if the person takes proper rest for a few months. Patients may use over-the-counter pain relievers to manage the pain. However, one must be careful about what drug is being used, as some studies have shown that certain pain killers may keep bones from healing. Until the damaged bone starts its healing process, attempts are made to keep it from bearing as much load as possible. For this, walking boot or brace, or crutches may be recommended to be used. In some cases, the doctor may feel the need to immobilize the affected bone with the help of a splint or cast. This happens in extreme cases. Surgery, may also be an option in the treatment, but is a rare requirement.
To conclude, the shin splints can be prevented by wearing proper shoes, using arch supports, choosing a gradual route to higher levels in exercise, and including strengthening maneuvers in exercise. All these measures are applicable for the prevention of stress fractures as well, except that, a diet rich in calcium and other nutrients is especially required for it.