Shin Splints

ExitCare ImageShin splints is a painful condition that is felt on the shinbone or in the muscles on either side of the bone (front of your lower leg). Shin splints happen when physical activities, such as sports or other demanding exercise, leads to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and the thin layer that covers the shinbone.

CAUSES

  • Overuse of muscles.

  • Repetitive activities.

  • Flat feet or rigid arches.

Activities that could contribute to shin splints include:

  • A sudden increase in exercise time.

  • Starting a new, demanding activity.

  • Running up hills or long distances.

  • Playing sports with sudden starts and stops.

  • A poor warm up.

  • Old or worn-out shoes.

SYMPTOMS

  • Pain on the front of the leg.

  • Pain while exercising or at rest.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will diagnose shin splints from a history of your symptoms and a physical exam. You may be observed as you walk or run. X-ray exams or further testing may be needed to rule out other problems, such as a stress fracture, which also causes lower leg pain.

TREATMENT

Your caregiver may decide on the treatment based on your age, history, health, and how bad the pain is. Most cases of shin splints can be managed by one or more of the following:

  • Resting.

  • Reducing the length and intensity of your exercise.

  • Stopping the activity that causes shin pain.

  • Taking medicines to control the inflammation.

  • Icing, massaging, stretching, and strengthening the affected area.

  • Getting shoes with rigid heels, shock absorption, and a good arch support.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Resume activity steadily or as directed by your caregiver.

  • Restart your exercise sessions with non-weight-bearing exercises, such as cycling or swimming.

  • Stop running if the pain returns.

  • Warm up properly before exercising.

  • Run on a level and fairly firm surface.

  • Gradually change the intensity of an exercise.

  • Limit increases in running distance by no more than 5 to 10% weekly. This means if you are running 5 miles, you can only increase your run by 1/2 a mile at a time.

  • Change your athletic shoes every 6 months, or every 350 to 450 miles.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Symptoms continue or worsen even after treatment.

  • The location, intensity, or type of pain changes over time.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have severe pain.

  • You have trouble walking.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.