Shin Splints: Sports Medicine Doctor or Orthopedic Surgeon?

Updated on May 12, 2011
K.W. asks from Mesa, AZ
12 answers

Hello: I have chronic shin splints from running. I stretch before and after. I also ice. I wear quality shoes. I run on dirt, not concrete or asphalt. I don't have a stress fracture or anything like that. I just have bad shin splints on the inside of both calves. I would like to see a doctor to see if it can be addressed but there are two types, to my understanding: Sports medicine doctor or an orthopedic surgeon but I don't know which to choose.

Thanks so much

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answers from Washington DC on

My husband went to a running shoe store where they filmed his feet running on a treadmill. The shoe specialist showed him how his feet work when he runs and how they pronate or whatever. They recommended a specific shoe just for his feet and their issues. My husband has not had a single shin splint or issue since.

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answers from St. Louis on

I actually don't think there is a difference between a sports medicine doctor and an orthopedic surgeon. My orthopedic surgeon goes by both titles.

Umm guys, orthopedic surgeons do more than surgery. The supervise therapy, do injections and other things to keep from doing surgery. The nice thing about them is they know when surgery is or is not necessary and won't keep you in therapy when there is little hope for quality improvement.

Thanks Jennifer, I wasn't sure if it was the new go to title or something like that. After looking at what shin splints are I would choose either a chiropractor or a pediatrist over an orthopedic surgeon or sports med doc.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Sports Medicine, they are more likely to come up with an answer for an Athletic lifestyle than an Ortho. If you are having shin splints it's probably the biomechanics of your running. My husband is a Chiro and has a degree in sports medicine, he cringes when he sees runners half the time because he knows, just by watching, what sort of issues they will have later. The other day we saw a guy running, and my husband said, "Man that guys knees have got to be killing him." Not two seconds later the guys slows down massages his knee then started running again! I just started laughing but my husband was pretty proud of himself. :)

Yes there is a difference, to answer Jo, her doc probably just has a degree in both. Sports Med guys don't make a lot.

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answers from Columbia on

A Sports Medicine doctor would be where I would start.
Hope you feel better soon!

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answers from Chicago on

Either doctor would be fine. Check their bio or CV to see what their expertise/interest area is. You'll get the best results from a doctor with whom you can form a good, open relationship regarding your injury.

By the way, many doctors are also 'surgeons'. I will bet your pediatrician is a surgeon as well. Does that mean they only do pediatric surgery? No.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I would start with the sports medicine doctor.

"Sports medicine is an area of health and special services that apply medical and scientific knowledge to prevent, recognize, manage, and rehabilitate injuries related to sport, exercise, or recreational activity."

An orthopedic surgeon does surgery.

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answers from Phoenix on

You'll need to get fitted for the right shoes. You likely have under or over pronation in your feet and that is causing the imbalance which is resulting in the shin splints. Shin splints are not a part of the bone - which is what most people think. The fibers, tendons, and muscles around the shin wrap around it. Shin splints are a strain and inflammation of those fibers. The only way to heal them is to take time off - a minimum of three weeks. Then get the right showes to support your shape and posture. Sports medicine is all you need, a surgeon can't really do anything. The doc will x-ray to makes sure you don't have any fractures and then prescribe rest, ice, and new shoes.

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answers from Seattle on

Sports medicine. I had them bad, from ballet. They can give you exercises that will help with the pain. they may start PT asap too. Ice, ice,ice. Arsica(?)-homopathic healing good to rub on the sore areas too!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I had a similar struggle with pettela femoral syndrome (runners knee). I went to an orthopedist, but in the end, they sent me to a physical therapist for the gist of my treatment anyway, perhaps I'd been better of with sports medicine.
M.R. you crack me up. Lol, Pretty sure there are no "pediatricians" who also do surgery unless they are 200 years old (rather there are trained surgeons, who specialize in pediatric issues, so for example, a pediatric urologist).

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answers from Chicago on


Wrap your calves, and it will solve the problem immediately (unless you want to stop running, which would be the other solution).

My cousin is a PT, and she suggested to me to take an Ace bandage and wrap my calves where they hurt. It worked immediately, and after a few weeks, I didn't need them anymore (and haven't since).

Shin splints are where the muscle is pulling away from the bone. If you wrap them, that prevents it from happening.

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answers from Flagstaff on

You may want to consider a fast read prior to doctors, Born to Run.

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answers from Austin on

I will be reading this closely. I have had shin splints since I was 17 and nothing has ever helped them go away.

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