Shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome) cause pain in or behind your tibia, which is the large bone in the front of your lower leg, commonly referred to as the shin. Shin splints are often the result of excessive force placed on the shinbone and connective tissues. They occur most frequently in runners and athletes in sports like basketball and tennis.
Shin splints often occur as a result of a person’s training regimen. But certain people are more susceptible to shin splints than others. For example, beginning athletes or runners are naturally more prone to shin splints than experienced athletes. People with flat feet are more likely to get shin splints, as are people undergoing an intense, high-impact workout program.
Symptoms of shin splints include tenderness and pain down the inner portion of your lower leg. If you only experience pain in and around your shin when running or otherwise engaging in physical activity, chances are good you have shin splints.
Fortunately, many cases of shin splints can be effectively treated through routine home care. If you suspect you’re suffering from shin splints, take a break from any physical activity that causes pain in your shin. Make sure to ice your shins three or four times a day for 20 minutes (remember to protect your skin from direct contact with the ice). Acetaminophen is a good over-the-counter pain reliever; take it as directed on the bottle.
Contrary to what many people may have been told by their high school or college coaches, you should never “run through” shin splints. They can be the sign of an impending stress fracture, and continuing to run or exercise can only make them worse. Instead, consult your doctor if your shin pain persists even when you’re taking a break from physical activity, or if you have pain when walking.
Through a combination of proper training techniques and footwear, you can decrease your chances of developing painful shin splints while enjoying regular exercise. Always replace old shoes with new ones that feature proper support and cushioning. Runners who have exceeded 400-500 miles with their current shoes should invest in a new pair. If you have flat feet, look into wearing arch supports to relieve lower-leg stress.
And keep in mind that there is a right way to run. Most people run the way they always have, but you can learn how to run correctly by seeing a running coach or physical therapist. Running correctly will decrease the stress on your body and will therefore decrease your chances of developing stress fractures.
Overtraining is another common cause of shin splints. People involved in athletic training, regular exercise or weightlifting should avoid working out too hard or for too long. Active individuals would do well to consider weight training for their lower body, too. Exercises such as controlled lunges, squats and calf raises can strengthen leg muscles and help prevent shin splints.
Shin splints are a very common injury, but there’s no reason to suffer through the pain and discomfort associated with this condition. By following the steps above, you can recognize and effectively treat shin splints – and if you don’t have shin splints, you can keep your lower legs healthy and pain-free.