Our college-aged daughter is a dance major. This semester she had to add a modern dance class to her already tight schedule. Now she’s developed shin splints. Should we encourage her to take the semester off before something worse happens?
Shin splints refers to pain and swelling of the lower leg. Sometimes this condition is also called chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS). The lower leg is divided into four sections or compartments.
Each compartment contains muscles, blood vessels, and a major nerve. The compartments are surrounded by stiff connective tissue called fascia. This helps keep the sections separate.
As the muscles are used, they expand in size and volume. In fact, muscle fibers can swell up to 20 times larger during and after exercise than when in a resting state. If the inelastic compartment doesn’t respond to the expansion, pain and loss of blood supply can occur. Athletes such as dancer or runners use muscle activity that repetitively stresses one or more of the compartments.
Compartment syndrome can be a very serious condition. Loss of blood to the area can lead to death of muscle tissue. In extreme cases, gangrene can even occur. Once the diagnosis is made, stopping the aggravating activities is required. Physical therapy can be a successful conservative approach.
If symptoms aren’t improved after six to 12 weeks of therapy, then surgery may be needed. Some experts claim that only surgery can cure compartment syndrome. The fascia is split open to allow muscular movement and expansion inside the compartment. This procedure is called a fasciectomy. In some cases, the fascia may be removed (fasciotomy) or a combination of the two procedures may be needed.
For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.com. The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.