Shin splints refers to pain along the front of the leg, specifically the shinbone. It involves the large bone in the leg called the tibia. Shin splints are common in runners, dancers and military recruits. They often occur in athletes who have recently intensified or changed their training routines. The muscles, tendons and bone tissue become overworked by the increased activity.
If you have shin splints, you may have tenderness or pain along the inner part of your lower leg accompanied with a mild swelling. At first, the pain may stop when you stop running or exercising. Eventually, the pain may be continuous.
Those individuals who are just beginning an exercise program or a running program may be prone to shin splints. Symptoms may be due to the fact that these individuals are playing sports on hard surfaces, while performing many sudden stops and starts. They may also be running on an uneven terrain such as hills and beaches.
Treatment for Shin Splints
In most cases, shin splints can be treated with simple self-care steps that include the following:
- Rest: Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort. However don’t stop all of your physical activity. Stick to low-impact exercises such as swimming, bicycling or water running.
- Ice the affected area: Apply ice packs to the affected shin for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, at least four times daily for several days. In order to protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever: Any over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain reliever medication such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen should be used to reduce pain.
Remember, if you resume your activities, do so gradually. By putting too much stress on your leg before it has healed sufficiently, you may experience continued pain.
Preventing Shin Splints
To help prevent shin splints, choose the footwear that suits your sport. If you are a runner, consider replacing your running shoes every 350 to 500 miles. Consider less impact sports in order to remove the stress of weight-bearing exercises such as swimming, walking or biking. If you start new activities, do so slowly. Then, increase time and intensity gradually. Strengthen other muscle groups such as calf muscles, in order to remove stress from the front of the leg. Do so by performing heel raises and repeating them for at least 10 repetitions. Slowly increase intensity gradually by progressively adding heavier weights.
Consulting Your Doctor
Consult your doctor if rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers do not ease your shin pain. Shin splints are usually diagnosed based on the individual’s medical history and a physical exam. In some cases, an x-ray or other imaging studies can help identify other possible causes for the leg pain. Shin splints at times mimic more serious injuries such as stress fractures of the tibia (shinbone). If there is no fracture, the cause might be a case of an overly high or an overly low arch. In either case, our expert medical staff will provide the necessary treatment with the appropriate orthoses.