Identifying and Treating Shin Splints

As the weather warms and the days get longer, people are dusting off their tennis shoes and getting motivated to get into shape. Whether you are a runner, walker or somewhere in between, it is very important to be cautious when stepping up your fitness routine. Don’t let your enthusiasm backfire!

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), can be frequently diagnosed in people that fail to ease into a new exercise regimen. Overuse or even switching your running/walking terrain can result in this painful issue.

What are shin splints?

If you suffer from shin splints, you are likely experiencing pain on the inside portion of the tibia (shin) bone. Specifically, irritation occurs where the muscle attaches to the bone. This irritation is caused by inflammation of your muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. Pain is often felt in both legs but can also be restricted to one side of the body.

How can you treat shin splints?

  • Rest: Taking time off from your exercise routine may be difficult to do. If you are an avid runner or just starting a new routine, hearing that you need to slow down can be frustrating. Resting your body can help alleviate the pain caused by shin splints. This does not necessarily mean that you need to cease all activity. Try low impact exercises like biking, swimming, rowing or an elliptical machine.
  • Ice your shins: While elevating your legs, apply ice indirectly to the painful area. It is important to NOT put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin in order to avoid damaging tissue.
  • Proper footwear and orthotics: Supporting your feet with the right shoes and even orthotic inserts can improve your shin splints. Having stability in your feet and legs can correct the issue over time.
  • Take over the counter medication such as Advil or Aleve.

Always consult your physician before starting any exercise program. If you are experiencing symptoms that have gotten worse or have lasted longer than a week, you should contact a physician. Continuing to exercise despite pain can result in serious injury.

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