Chasing Away Shin Splints

Time for a little run around the neighborhood, maybe a jog on the treadmill?

Left, right, left, right . . .

Pain!

Familiar with the pattern? If you’ve ever enjoyed the benefits of running, you’ve also likely felt that accompanying pain in the shin. Just the term Shin Splints evokes a grimace from anyone who’s experienced that sharp sensation along the front of the tibia between ankle and knee.

Medically, the injury is Medial Tibial Syndrome. The lower leg injury plagues everyone from occasional runners to professional gymnasts. Military personnel, too, suffer from the exercise-induced or overuse injury. Medline Plus, a National Institutes of Health website, cites several likely causes of Shin Splints including changes in training, running on hills, increasing frequency or length of training, or sudden stops and starts. Impact of the foot striking the surface, is another cause of that shooting pain up your shin. Heel strikers, too, irritate the fascia, or connective tissues of lower leg muscles.

Whatever the cause, the irritation and accompanying inflammation can get worse with more activity or no treatment. Shin splints can be a precursor for stress fractures or lead to the fascia separating from the tibia. The best treatment is to first decrease risk of injury. Our providers at Southwest Spine & Sport suggest precautions and treatments found in the Journal of the American Medical Association including starting slowly and gradually increasing speed and distance along with running on soft surfaces if possible. Also, warm up properly and wear comfortable shoes, which should be replaced every 300-500 miles.

If shin splints hit, treatment is often simple. The list of remedies is easy to follow and includes the following options:

  • Ice the area(s) in pain a few times each day;
  • Rest your legs for a couple of weeks;
  • Stretch your shins;
  • Take Ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce swelling;
  • Investigate use of arch supports and leg sleeves;
  • Expect shin splints to linger for a few months even with treatment.

Click here for more information on shin splints and other injuries.