Shin splints are common to most runners and even some walkers. Shin splints is the pain along the tibia – or the large bone in the front of your lower leg. The muscles and tendons around the bone can become sensitive and painful when they are overworked. While anyone can get them, shin splints are most common when people change or intensify their exercise routines.
Shin pain first usually happens when you’re doing a particular activity, but then goes away when you stop. For example, a runner will take a break and start walking. But sometimes, the pain lingers after you’re done exercising. You can treat the pain at home by:
- Resting: Avoid the activity that causes the pain (like running). Instead, try some low impact exercises instead such as swimming or biking.
- Icing the affected area: Apply ice packs to the areas that hurt for about 15 to 20 minutes about four times a day. Remember to wrap the ice pack in a towel before placing it against your leg.
- Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever: You can take ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen sodium (Aleve) to help with the pain and swelling.
Once you’re feeling better, slowly resume your normal exercise. If you come back too fast, the pain will come right back with it.
To avoid shin splints:
- Wear the right shoe for your exercise and if you’re a runner, replace them every 300 to 500 miles. Depending on your foot shape, you may also want to look into arch supports for your shoes to help lessen the impact on those key muscles.
- Stretch your leg muscles before and after your runs. Also consider doing some strength training to build up your muscle strength, which can help prevent future injury.
- Mix it up. Avoid doing back-to-back days of high-impact exercises such as running. Alternate running with cross training, such as using an elliptical machine, biking or swimming that will provide you with aerobic exercise you crave while lessening the impact on the affected muscles.
If you have severe swelling or pain in your leg, consider seeing a doctor to rule out anything else. For the most part, mixing up your exercise routine and providing care at home will help you feel better soon.
Kim Kandler is a licensed athletic trainer with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care at ThedaCare Medical Center-New London.