Several injuries are known as 'shin splints'

February 05, 1991|By Excerpted from In Health Magazine Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate

SHIN SPLINTS COULD be any of the following injuries that cause pain in the front of the leg between the knee and ankle. Runners, dancers, fitness walkers and basketball players are especially prone to this progression.

* SOFT TISSUE INJURY: Twists and pulls can break down the soft tissue of tendons, ligaments and muscles, leading to inflammation and pain. Even without a pull, however, hard exercise can overwork the muscle cells and start inflammation. (In some people, repeated overuse can lead to compartment syndrome.)

* PERIOSTEAL INFLAMMATION: Fatigue is an ally of injury. For example, many tiring runners begin to slap their feet on the ground. Injured soft tissue has a hard time absorbing such impact, so more strain reachers the periosteum, a membrane that covers the bone. Repeated jarring or stress will damage the membrane.

* STRESS FRACTURES: When the strain becomes too much for the bone itself to withstand, small cracks appear. The best treatment is simply to ease up whenever pain appears. If mild pain continues, use ice and perhaps a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. If the pain continues to worsen, stop exercising and see a doctor.

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