Shin splints is a condition affecting the large bone at the front of your lower leg. The condition is very common among long distance runners and military recruits. Medically the condition is referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome. The condition is normally triggered by an increase in training intensity and increased load over a short amount of time that causes stress to muscles, tendons and ligaments. Typically, the condition is simply treated with rest, ice and other self-care measurements that stop the occurrence.
The main complaint of pain with shin splints is a pain along the front of the shin. This may or not be associated with swelling in the area.
You may also have:
- A sharp pain or dull throbbing in the leg
- The pain will present both during and after exercise
- The pain is aggravated with palpation with tenderness in sport spots
Causes and risk factors
Shin splints are caused most of the time by repetitive stress on the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. Below is a list of risk factors that will increase your chance of developing the condition.
- You have a flat feet or high arches
- Exercising (running) in worn out shoes
- You are in your early stage of military training
- You often run on uneven terrain, hills or hard surfaces
- Sudden increase of activity duration, frequency, load or intensity
If you suspect you a suffering from shin splints you should seek medical attention in order to get the best treatment possible and decrease your time in recovery. If left untreated shin splints can lead to a stress fracture which is a small crack in the shin bone that will take a much longer time to heal.
Steps to help the onset of shin splints:
- Avoid overtraining, ensure you have adequate rest days between workouts, do not do too much too soon.
- Depending on if you have fallen arches or high arch you should wear a trainer that supports this.
- Ensure you are using the right type of equipment to exercise with.
- Try to cross train your desired sport with another sport that is less force and impact heavy on the shins, this could be swimming or cycling. Any new activities should be gradually increased over a number of weeks.
Regular strength training
- To ensure you are giving your body the best possible chance to stay injury free you should exercise to strengthen and stabilise your hips, core, legs and ankles to deal with the load and intensity of high impact sports.
Non-surgical treatment is the main option when dealing with shin splints. These steps can aid your recovery and can be done at home.
Rest – shin splints are largely due to overtraining therefore the best way to begin treatment is to rest for several weeks from the activity that has caused the pain, this will allow the body’s natural healing process to begin.
NSAIDs – non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs over the counter can help to reduce inflammation and pain in the area.
Ice – use ice for 20 minutes maximum at any one time several times per day. to aid the body’s natural healing process.
Compression – addition wrapping of an elastic bandage can reduce swelling.