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Shin Splints
February 2001

Q. Three or four times a week, I wake up at night with pain in my shins. Once I move around a bit it subsides and I can go back to sleep. This is often accompanied by an ache in my hips. I play racquetball nearly every morning and golf and never have the pain. Only at night when I'm asleep. I'm reasonably healthy otherwise and will be seeing a doctor about this, but wanted to know any information prior to that if you can help. Are these commonly called "shin splints"?

A. A visit to your doctor is the right thing to do, in order to establish a diagnosis. There may not be anything serious, but an evaluation is in order. A physical exam can usually clarify circulation and nerve status which may be contributing. These are not too likely since you are quite physically active during the day. Impaired circulation and nerve problems to the legs would usually limit your ability to play a vigorous sport like racquetball, and likely limit your walking on the golf course as well.

You may have restless legs syndrome, a condition which causes leg discomfort most commonly at night, and is unrelated to nerve or circulation problems. The cause is unknown, but various medications can be helpful. Here are some references for you if this turns out to be the cause of your symptoms.

http://www.rls.org/main.asp

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/rls.htm

http://restlesslegs.com/info2.html

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