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What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, are an inflammation of the muscles and tendons around the tibia, or shinbone. Shin splints typically develop after physical activity and are the result of repetitive impact activity such as running or jumping on hard surfaces.

Causes

Shin splints usually follow a sudden increase in frequency, intensity or duration of athletic training.

  • Participating in activities or sports that occur on harder surfaces
  • Having flat feet or abnormally rigid arches
  • Exercising with improper or worn-out footwear

Runners are at highest risk for developing shin splints. Dancers and military recruits are two other groups frequently diagnosed with the condition.

Symptoms

  • Pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, or tibia
  • Dull aching pain that occurs in the posterior medial tibia just below the mid-portion of the bone
  • Shin is tender to the touch
  • Pain is usually heightened during activity and relieved by rest.

Schedule an appointment with a Raleigh Orthopaedic sports medicine physician

Treatment

Treatment for shin splints is non-surgical and includes:

  • Rest: Since shin splints are typically caused by overuse, standard treatment includes several weeks of rest from the activity that caused the pain. Lower impact types of aerobic activity can be substituted during recovery, such as swimming, or using a stationary bike.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications: Drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen reduce pain and swelling.
  • Ice: Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Compression: Wearing an elastic compression bandage may prevent additional swelling.
  • Flexibility exercises: Stretching your lower leg muscles may make your shins feel better.
  • Supportive shoes: Wearing shoes with good cushioning during daily activities will help reduce stress in your shins.
  • Orthotics: People who have flat feet or recurrent problems with shin splints may benefit from orthotics. Shoe inserts can help align and stabilize the foot and ankle, taking stress off of the lower leg.

Recovery

Before returning to exercise, you should be pain-free for at least two weeks. When you return to exercise, it must be at a lower level of intensity. You should not be exercising as often as you did before, or for the same length of time.

Be sure to warm up and stretch thoroughly before you exercise. Increase training slowly. If you start to feel the same pain, stop exercising immediately. Use a cold pack and rest for a day or two. Return to training again at a lower level of intensity. Increase training even more slowly than before.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SPORTS MEDICINE TREATMENT AT RALEIGH ORTHOPAEDIC

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Raleigh Orthopaedic is Wake County’s oldest and most experienced orthopedic practice, serving the Triangle and surrounding regions of central North Carolina since 1919. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

roc What are Shin Splints?