17 Apr Preventing and Managing Shin Splints
‘Shin splints’ is the colloquial name given for pain that is experienced along the shin bone which is the large bone (tibia) that makes up the lower leg of the human body. The medical name for the condition is medial tibial stress syndrome and is one which usually affects athletes and is thus categorized as a sports-related injury affecting the lower leg.
Causes and Risk Factors
Athletes and competitive individuals who perform repetitive physical activities exert increased levels of stress on the tibia and the connective tissues and muscle that surround the bone. This connective tissue and the muscles become inflamed and swollen which then exert pressure on the tibia.
Risk factors that can increase the chances of developing shin splints include:
- Being a runner who is starting a running program.
- Suddenly increasing the intensity, frequency, and duration of physical exertion.
- Running or performing physical activities on hard or uneven surfaces such as concrete or hills, respectively.
- Having flat or high foot arches.
- Performing military training.
Symptoms and Signs
Shin splints can cause the following issues:
- Pain along the inner side of the shin bone or tibia.
- Swelling and tenderness may also be noticed in the affected area.
- Initially, the pain that is felt may stop when the affected individual stops exercising.
- If the problem persists, the pain can become continuous. This may lead to complications such as a stress fracture of the tibia.
Preventing Shin Splints
Emphasis is made on prevention being better than cure so the following are suggestions made to help reduce the chances of athletes developing shin splints:
- One must try avoiding overdoing their physical activities such as running or performing high-impact activities. Reducing the frequency and intensity of the training can help to prevent shin splints.
- Performing less intensive physical activities such as biking, walking, or swimming can help reduce the impact on the lower legs.
- Those who are starting exercise programs or new physical activities should do so slowly and must gradually increase the amount of time they spend on the activities and the intensity of the training.
- Strength training can be added to one’s current exercises in order to help strengthen and stabilize the ankles and lower legs to prepare them for dealing with high-impact activities.
- Runners should consider changing their shoes every 350 to 500 miles of use as the insoles can wear down and reduce support to the ankles and lower legs.
- Making use of shock-absorbing insoles can reduce stress on the tibia.
- Arch supports added into one’s shoes can help, especially in those individuals who have flat feet.
The treatment of shin splints involves conservative measures such as:
- Resting the affected limb by changing over to low-impact activities such as the ones already mentioned.
- Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the front of the lower leg for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, four to six times a day.
- Using over-the-counter pain medications such as anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, diclofenac, or naproxen helps to reduce swelling and thus the pain.