Doctors Bust Medical Myths and Lies

The information has been passed on through the generations – but is it accurate? A panel of experts and MDs speak up on the common myths that affect your health.

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MYTH: You should run through shin splints.

By Michael Neely, DO, Medical Director, NY SportsMed

FACT: Athletes and parents frequently ask if it is acceptable to “run through shin splints.” The myth of running through shin splints has been handed down and perpetuated by coaches for many generations, but it will only make the pain of shin splints worse. In fact, it is the exact opposite of how to treat them.

Shin splints are a warning sign of impending stress fracture in the tibia (shin bone), and further running can accelerate the injury and may cause a stress fracture. Once a fracture sets in, the use of crutches may be required and any impact activity will need to be avoided for up to 12 weeks to allow for healing.

Symptoms of shin splints include pain down the inner portion of the lower leg or tenderness to touch. At the onset of shin pain, take a break from any physical activity and recover by icing your shins 3-4 times a day for 20 minutes. To protect the skin from frostbite, always avoid direct contact by wrapping the ice in a light towel or cloth. Acetaminophen is a good choice for over-the-counter relief if the pain persists. Take as directed on the bottle.

If after several days you still feel pain with simple walking, exercise or upon returning to your sport, see a doctor immediately. Not only can they help you treat your shin splints, but they can help you learn why you developed them in the first place. The most common causes include improper running form and bad footwear. Correct technique, proper shoes and shoe inserts can go a long way toward stopping shin splints before they start and prevent a more serious injury.