Shin Splints: What You Should Know

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on February 19, 2019

Some of us go all our lives without giving our shins much thought at all.

Others have an intimate—and painful—familiarity with their shin bones.

Ironically, they are probably the most active among us.

Dancers, runners and other athletes often have to contend with the aches and pains of shin splints.

Stress on Your Leg
For the record, your shin is the bone at the front of your leg below the knee.

Shin splints, or inflammation of the shin bone, or tibia, can be caused by different types of stress on the bone and surrounding tissues.

These can include:

  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • Exercising without warming up
  • Lack of strength in ankles or leg muscles
  • Increasing the number or length of workouts
  • Flat feet
  • High arches
  • Running on hard surfaces like concrete
  • Walking or running on hilly or uneven terrain
  • Dancing

Treatment
Shin splints often heal with rest.

“Ice your shinbone every three to four hours to reduce swelling and pain,” advised Stephen Cromer, D.O., with Carilion Clinic Sports Medicine. “Apply the ice for 20 to 30 minutes at a time for two to three days, or until you feel no pain.”

Anti-inflammatory pain killers such as aspirin or ibuprofen can also help, but they can have side effects, such as bleeding or ulcers.

If your shin splints persist, a visit to an orthopaedist may be in order. He or she can take X-rays to scan for possible fractures, and may also prescribe custom-made orthotics to help support your feet and legs.

Prevention
To help avoid shin splints, runners are advised to get their running technique evaluated to see if it is contributing to the problem. You can also minimize the risk or severity of shin splints by:

  • Beginning new sports programs slowly
  • Avoiding overdoing high-impact activities
  • Seeing whether insoles or arch supports can help absorb the impact of your activities
  • Cross-training with sports that create less stress on your shin bones
  • Replacing any running shoes as they get worn—after 350 to 500 miles
  • Doing strength training to help strengthen your core, legs, ankles and hips

And remember: “Take it easy” may not be what you want to hear, but in the case of shin splints, it can definitely help.

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