If you have shin splints, you may notice tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner part of your lower leg.
Shint Splints refers to pain along or just behind the shinbone (tibia) — the large bone in the front of your lower leg. Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints occur during physical activity and result from too much force being placed on your shinbone and connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. Shin splints are common in runners and in those who participate in activities with sudden stops and starts, such as basketball, soccer or tennis.
The risk of shin splints is no reason to give up your morning jog or afternoon aerobics class. Most cases of shin splints can be treated with rest, ice and other self-care measures. Wearing proper footwear and modifying your exercise routine can help prevent shin splints from recurring.
Shin splints have two main causes:
• Exerting excessive pressure on the lower leg muscles
• Excessive impact on the muscle
Pain is usually felt early on during the physical activity, dies down somewhat, and then returns later on, sometimes during the same exercise session; this may occur during a long run. The pain can gradually become so bad that the activity has to be abandoned altogether.
A serious mistake is to try to “run through the pain” if it is a shin pain. This type of pain usually means there is injury to the bone and/or surrounding tissue. Forcing it more may worsen the injury and make the pain more intense and longer lasting.
Lt. j.g. Gina Shaw treats shin splints by wrapping her leg in ice after her 8 Kilometer run after competing in the 2009 Armed Forces Cross Country Championship
The main cause of shin splints is too much force on the shin bone and connective tissues that attach the bone to surrounding muscle. The excessive force is usually caused by:
• Running downhill
• Running on a slanted surfaces or uneven terrain
• Running with inappropriate shoes, including proper shoes than have worn out
• Taking part in sports that include bursts of speed and sudden stops
An increase in activity, intensity or period of exertion can easily lead to shin splints, if the muscles and tendons struggle to absorb the impact of the shock force, especially when they are tired.
Females have a higher risk of complications from shin splints, e.g. stress fractures, especially if their bone density is diminished, as may occur in osteoporosis.
People with flat feet or rigid arches have a higher risk of developing shin splints.
The best treatment for shin splints is rest. It is not one of those leg pains that recovers faster with physical activity. In the majority of cases the doctor will recommend two weeks’ rest. This means no running or taking part in any kind of sport linked to higher shin splint risk. However, gentle activities, such as cycling, swimming or walking are probably acceptable (check with your doctor or physical therapist).
Raising the leg and applying an ice pack to the affected area can help reduce the swelling.
To alleviate pain, an OTC (over-the-counter) analgesic, such as paracetamol (acetaminophen, Tylenol) or ibuprofen may help.
• Use proper fitting shoes with good support
• Make sure the insoles are shock-absorbing. If you have flat feet, good insoles are vital
• Avoid hard surfaces, uneven terrain, or slanted slopes
• Increase your intensity gradually
• Make sure you warmed up properly before doing exercise