The shin is the front facing part of the leg; just below the knee. Like any other part of the body, the shin is prone to injury, pain and discomfort. It is worth knowing about shin cramps, their causes, symptoms and treatment.
A common problem that many people face is shin cramps. Cramps can affect any part of the leg however cramps in the shin, calf muscles and thighs seem to be most common. A cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles that is mostly temporary but results in pain and affects mobility while it lasts.
Causes of Shin Cramps
There are varying possible causes for shin cramps and these cramps are mostly caused by dehydration, muscle overuse and due to excessive strain on a muscle. Some of the causes of shin cramps also include staying in a particular position for a prolonged period of time that puts undue strain on the shin area. While leg cramps are mostly attributed to muscle overuse they tend to occur while sleeping or resting too. Some people are oversensitive to temperature changes and may also experience shin cramps in very cold weather.
The average duration of these cramps are 8 to 10 minutes however the tenderness and discomfort in the affected area can last up to 24 hours. While muscle cramps are mostly harmless and aren’t life threatening in any way; they can also be attributed to underlying serious issues like a lack of blood supply to the limbs. Causes of shin cramps can also be related to peripheral artery disease, circulatory problems, nutritional of calcium deficiencies and diabetes in some people.
Symptoms of Shin Cramps
The primary symptoms of a shin cramp are sudden and intense pain in the shin area. Pain can last anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes and is followed by discomfort that can prevail for up to 24 hours. It is also common to feel a hard lump in the affected area during the cramp. This is basically aggravated muscle tissue. The symptoms of shin cramps or pain are intense and sudden during the actual cramp phase, while overall tenderness in the area can remain for long. While shin cramps are mostly harmless, they can also be caused by serious underlying health problems such as diabetes and peripheral artery disease.
Your symptoms of shin cramps are a cause for concern and need medical attention when…
- They happen quite frequently
- Are accompanied by swelling and redness in the shins
- Are linked to muscle atrophy
- Do not show signs of improvement with at-home care
- Cannot be linked to a specific cause like strenuous workouts or physical activity
Treatments of Shin Cramps
Considering that shin cramps mostly heal by themselves and the pain or the discomfort goes away within 24 hours; one can resort to home treatments to alleviate the symptoms. Treatment of shin cramps may include home remedies like massage, rest, ice application or hot fomentation to the strained muscles. Other effective treatment of shin cramps like applying pain relieving gels and creams too can provide relief.
The RICE formula works quite well as an effective treatment of shin cramps and can be followed by
- Resting the affected limb
- Icing the affected area
- Compressing the affected area with bandaging
- And elevating the affected limb for a while
Painkillers are mostly not needed as the intense pain of a shin cramp lasts only for 8 to 10 minutes. Regular cramps that result in swelling and redness might require medicines, which must be taken as prescribed by a doctor. Also, considering the possibility of underlying conditions, for frequent shin cramps or those with severe symptoms, medical advice is needed.
If you are a regular at the gym or have strenuous physical activity; consider resting the affected legs to prevent skin cramps from recurring. Cramps aren’t a regular occurrence and can happen at the most unlikeliest of times. Do not panic as the intense pain will pass in a few short minutes. One needs to reiterate that while occasional cramps are no cause for concern; recurring cramps need medical attention as soon as possible.
In conclusion; shin cramps are mostly harmless but may indicate overuse and strain on leg muscles. Knowing the causes, symptoms and treatment of shin cramps can help in every way to prevent and manage the condition.
- Mayo Clinic. (2022). Leg cramps https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/leg-cramps/symptoms-causes/syc-20350820
- NHS. (2021). Leg cramps https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leg-cramps/
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