Shin stress fractures are frustrating injuries that can sideline even the most seasoned athletes.
Whether you’re a dedicated runner or a weekend warrior, these hairline fractures in the shin bone can spell disaster for your training and performance.
This blog explains everything you need to know about shin stress fractures – from their causes and symptoms to who is most susceptible to this hindering injury.
We also provide valuable insights into at-home remedies and professional treatments offered by the experts at North West Physio.
But first, what exactly are shin stress fractures?
What is a shin stress fracture?
A shin stress injury or shin stress fracture is a type of overuse injury that commonly affects the shinbone (tibia) in the lower leg. It occurs when the shin region’s muscles, tendons, and bones are subjected to repetitive stress or excessive force without sufficient time to recover and heal.
Stress fracture vs shin splints
What’s the difference between a stress fracture and shin splints?
Is a general term to describe pain along the inner edge of the shinbone. It is typically caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and periosteum (the connective tissue covering the bone).
In more severe cases, repetitive stress can lead to tiny cracks or fractures in the shinbone. These stress fractures can be painful and may require a longer rest period to heal properly.
6 signs of a shin stress fracture
The signs of a shin stress fracture may vary depending on the severity of the injury, but common symptoms to watch out for include:
Persistent pain along the inner or front portion of the shinbone is the most common symptom. The pain may start as a dull ache during activity and progress to become sharp and intense with continued stress.
2. Tenderness and sensitivity:
The affected area may feel tender to the touch, and pressing on the shinbone might elicit pain.
3. Pain with activity:
Pain worsens during weight-bearing activities like walking, running, or jumping. It may subside with rest but return once the activity is resumed.
4. Pain at night:
Some individuals may experience increased pain and discomfort, making sleeping challenging.
5. Gradual onset:
Shin stress fractures typically develop gradually over time due to repetitive stress. Initially, the pain may be mild and intermittent but can progress to a constant, severe ache.
6. Swelling and localised warmth:
The skin over the affected may feel warmer or look swollen due to increased blood flow and inflammation.
Shin stress fracture: who do they mainly affect and why?
Shin stress fractures mainly affect individuals who engage in high-impact activities and sports that involve repetitive stress on the lower legs. They are particularly common in athletes and active individuals, including:
Long-distance runners, sprinters, and those who run on hard surfaces are at a higher risk of developing shin stress fractures due to the repetitive impact on their legs.
– Jumping athletes:
Athletes involved in sports like basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics, which require frequent jumping and landing, are susceptible to shin stress fractures.
Dancers, especially those in styles that involve jumping and landing or frequent impact on the legs, are at risk of developing these fractures.
– Military personnel:
especially during basic training or periods of intense physical conditioning, may be prone to shin stress fractures due to their demanding physical activities.
The main reason why shin stress fractures occur in these populations is related to “overuse.” Overuse injuries result from repetitive stress on a particular body part without sufficient time for recovery and healing.
In the case of shin stress fractures, the constant pounding and high-impact movements during sports and activities can overwhelm the body’s ability to repair itself, leading to tiny cracks or fractures in the shinbone.
How to prevent a stress fracture
Prevention is key to avoiding shin injuries. Here are some effective ways to reduce the risk of shin stress fractures:
- Gradual training progression to allow your body to adapt to increased demands
- Wear proper footwear with good shock absorption and support
- Choosing softer surfaces for high-impact activities
- Incorporating low-impact cross-training activities like swimming or cycling
- Performing warm-ups, cool-downs, and regular stretching to improve flexibility and reduce tension
- Listening to your body and taking rest when needed – ignoring early warning signs can lead to more severe injuries
- Maintaining a balanced diet for optimal bone health
Shin stress fracture treatment
The specific treatment plan for shin injuries, including shin stress fractures and shin splints, can vary depending on the severity of the injury and individual circumstances.
However, a typical treatment plan may include the following components:
This may involve easing or avoiding high-impact activities and giving the shin sufficient time to heal. The duration of rest can range from several days to several weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.
Applying ice reduces inflammation and alleviates pain, especially after activities that might worsen the symptoms.
3. Exercise rehabilitation:
An exercise program to help strengthen the muscles around the shin, improve flexibility, and correct any biomechanical issues that may have contributed to the injury. If you think you might have a shin stress fracture or are currently dealing with one, reach out to North West Physio Keperra for an assessment. Our team will create a personalised exercise rehabilitation plan tailored to your needs.
4. Gradual return to activity:
Once symptoms have settled, a guided return to running program may be prescribed to gradually load the shin with adequate time for recovery to build activity tolerance.
5. Proper footwear and orthotics:
Footwear assessment and recommendation for orthotics if needed.
During recovery, engaging in low-impact activities like swimming or cycling can maintain fitness levels while giving the shins time to heal.
Your guide on shin stress fractures: identification to recovery
Shin stress fractures are a source of great frustration for athletes, no matter their skill level or dedication.
If you think you might have a shin stress fracture or are currently dealing with one, reach out to North West Physio Keperra for an evaluation. Book now, and our team will create a personalised exercise rehabilitation plan tailored to your needs.