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Pain Management

Common Leg Injuries

What are shin splints?
Shin splints are an inflammation of the periosteum, a fibrous sheath that surrounds bone. In this case, the affected bone is the shin bone, or tibia. Shin splints are usually accompanied by pain and swelling in the front of the lower leg. Most frequent in runners, this overuse injury is caused by the repetitive stress of running on hard surfaces.

What is a torn ACL? MCL?
There are four ligaments in the knee: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The ACL and PCL stabilize front-to-back knee movements, while the MCL and LCL stabilize side-to-side movements.

The ACL can be sprained or torn if the knee is straightened beyond its normal limits (hyperextended), twisted, or bent side-to-side. A sprained or torn ACL is common in sports and usually results from a hard stop or aggressive twisting of the knee. The PCL is the least common ligament to be injured.

The MCL is injured when a force is exerted on the outside of the knee, pushing it inward, while the LCL is injured by a force exerted on the inside of the knee that pushes it outward. This type of hit is frequent in contact sports like football or hockey.

A torn knee ligament is usually accompanied by feeling or hearing a pop in the knee at the time of injury, severe pain and swelling, and joint instability.

What is a torn meniscus?
The medial and lateral menisci (plural of meniscus) of the knee are two crescent moon-shaped disks of tough tissue that lie between the ends of the upper leg bone and lower leg bone that form the knee joint. Meniscus tears commonly occur during sports when the knee is twisted while the foot is planted firmly on the ground. In people over the age of 40 whose menisci are worn down, a tar might occur with normal movement, minimal activity, or minor injury.

What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is a microscopic crack in a bone that occurs from overuse. Muscles normally absorb the shock of physical activities, but when they become too fatigued to do so, they transfer the stress to the bones which results in a hairline-sized fracture.

Stress fractures usually develop in the weightbearing bones of the feet and lower legs, often after a rapid increase in the duration or intensity of exercise or from wearing improper or worn out athletic shoes.

What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is a microscopic crack in a bone that occurs from overuse. Muscles normally absorb the shock of physical activities, but when they become too fatigued to do so, they transfer the stress to the bones which results in a hairline-sized fracture.

Stress fractures usually develop in the weightbearing bones of the feet and lower legs, often after a rapid increase in the duration or intensity of exercise or from wearing improper or worn out athletic shoes.

What is a ruptured Achilles tendon?
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the muscles in the lower leg (calf) to the heel bone. With every movement of the foot, the Achilles tendon stretches and tightens. Because it is under so much stress, it can partially or completely tear (rupture) from excess force or overuse. Ruptures usually occur about two inches above where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.

An Achilles tendon rupture is most common in middle-aged "weekend warriors" who are not conditioned for athletics and who neglect to properly warm up and stretch prior to exercise. Ruptures frequently occur from sudden movements that stress the calf muscles, such as jumping or quick stops; from overstretching; from vigorous exercise after a long period of inactivity; or from untreated Achilles tendinitis/tendinosis (overuse).

This information was taken from the University Pointe Pain Management Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

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Last Reviewed: Jan 16, 2007

Hammam  Akbik, MD, FIPP Hammam Akbik, MD, FIPP
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Anesthesia
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati