25 Oct How to Deal with Shin Splints from Walking
“Shin splints” is the layperson term given to the condition known as medial tibial stress syndrome. What occurs in this condition is that the muscles and tendons of the lower legs are overworked to the point where they swell and cause stress and pressure to be applied to the tissue covering the tibia (larger bone of the lower leg) causing pain and discomfort in this area. The condition tends to occur in dancers, runners and members of the military who overuse the muscles of the lower legs, but shin splints from walking can also occur in some people. The chance of this situation arising increases when the affected individual walks on uneven terrain, or if there’s a sudden increase in physical activity. Some of the main causes of experiencing shin splints though are having flat feet or high arches.
Measures on how to make shin splints go away, including preventive ones, are as follows:
- Resting – avoid activities where discomfort, pain, and swelling from shin splints will arise, but not give up completely on all physical activities. Low-impact exercises such as cycling, swimming, and water aerobics can still be performed.
- Oral pain medications – anti-inflammatories such as naproxen and ibuprofen help to reduce the swelling and pain caused by tense muscles.
- Ice packs and cold compresses – applying cold packs to the affected shin for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, four to six times a day for a few days helps to reduce the swelling in the lower leg. A sheet or towel should always be placed between the cold pack and the skin to prevent injury by the cold temperature to the area.
- Physical therapy – physical therapists can provide services for patients with shin splints which include massaging the affected lower leg and even performing dry-needling. This involves inserting needles in tense muscles to help improve the blood flow to the tissue in order to facilitate relaxation.
Other suggestions on how to get rid of shin splints, especially for those who are physically active, are changing running shoes every 350 to 500 miles (550 to 800 kilometres), incorporating strength training to stabilize and strengthen the core muscles as well as those of the ankles, legs and hips, and consider using shock-absorbing insoles in their shoes. In those individuals who have flat feet, consulting with an orthotist to develop the correct insoles and arch supports for shoes is recommended.
Runners are also suggested to try and get recordings of their running techniques to evaluate whether any changes need to be incorporated to avoid shin splints. Such recommendations include always striking the ground with the middle of the foot because doing so with the toes or heels increases the chance of shin splints developing or progressing.
A major complication of shin splints can involve compression of the arteries supplying blood to the lower leg which can cause tissue damage due to a decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients to this area. If blood flow is interrupted, then the condition is known as compartment syndrome and a surgical procedure will need to be performed to relieve the pressure on the lower leg caused by the swelling of the muscles.