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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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