19 Dec Shin splints – What are they and how can they be managed?
Most of us have experienced some form of muscle cramp or pain in our legs after being physically active. From cramps in the calve muscles to entire leg fatigue, these can be irritating problems but they are manageable.
Severe pain in the lower legs is referred to as “shin splints” because it feels like the fronts of the lower legs want to split open. This problem occurs most commonly in the following individuals:
- Runners, especially those who start with a new running program.
- Military personnel who train for long hours and go on marches that last for some time.
- In general, anyone who runs on uneven terrains such as hard surfaces like concrete or over hills and mountains.
- Those who have flat feet or high arches.
The medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome and is caused by repetitive stress on the tibia (shinbone) and the connective tissues and tendons that attach the muscles to the bones.
The following measures are ways on how to get rid of shin splints:
- Rest and avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort but it’s not necessary to give up all physical activities. During this healing period, affected individuals are advised to rather attempt low-impact exercises such as water running, cycling, or swimming.
- Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the affected shin for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, four to six times a day for several days will help reduce the inflammation and swelling of the lower legs. It is also suggested to protect the skin from freezer burn by wrapping ice packs in a thin towel.
- Using over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen help to reduce pain.
- A video taken of one’s running technique to analyze and identify movement patterns that can contribute to shin splints may be useful. A slight change in how one runs can help decrease the risk of developing medial tibial stress syndrome.
- One should also try to avoid overdoing their physical exertion. Performing running or other high-impact activities for too long at too high an intensity can overload the shins and lead to the development of the condition.
- Runners are advised to replace their shoes about every 300 to 450 miles (480 to 720 kilometers).
- One should also try considering the use of arch supports in their shoes if they have issues such as flat feet and arches to help prevent the pain of shin splints.
- Shock-absorbing insoles may also be used as they help to absorb the stress and impact taken on by the lower leg.
- Training with a sport that places less impact on the shins such as biking, walking, or swimming also helps to reduce the stress placed on the lower legs.
- Start new activities slowly and increase the duration spent on them and the intensity of the activity gradually over time.
- Exercises to strengthen and stabilize the core muscles, hips, legs, and ankles can help prepare the legs to deal with high-impact exercises and sporting activities.