Shin splints are a common lower extremity
complaint, especially among runners and other athletes. They are
characterized by pain in the front or inside aspect of the lower leg due
to overexertion of the muscles. The pain usually develops gradually
without a history of trauma, and might begin as a dull ache along the
front or inside of the shin (Tibia) after running or even walking. Small
bumps and tender areas may become evident adjacent to the shin bone. The
pain can become more intense if not addressed, and shin splints should not
be left untreated because of an increased risk of developing stress
Shin splints usually involve small tears in
the leg muscles where they are attached to the shin bone. The two types of
shin splints are: anterior shin splints, in the front portion of the
tibia; and posterior shin splints, occurring on the inside of the leg
along the tibia.
Shin splints can be caused when the
anterior leg muscles are stressed by running, especially on hard surfaces
or extensively on the toes, or by sports that involve jumping. Wearing
athletic shoes that are worn out or donít have enough shock absorption can
also cause this condition. Over-pronated (flat feet) are another factor
that can lead to increased stress on the lower leg muscles during
exercise. People with high arched feet can also experience shin splint
discomfort because this foot type is a poor shock absorber.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to prevent shin splints is to
stretch and strengthen the leg muscles, wear footwear with good shock
absorption, and avoid running on hard surfaces or excessive running or
jumping on the ball-of-the-foot. Insoles or orthotics that offer arch
support for over-pronation are also important.
Treatment for shin splints should include
taking a break from the exercise that is causing the problem until pain
subsides. Icing the area immediately after running or other exercise can
also be effective, along with gentle stretching before and after training.
Another option is taking aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce
It is important not to try to train through
the pain of shin splints. Runners should decrease mileage for about a week
and avoid hills or hard surfaces. If a muscle imbalance, poor running form
or flat feet are causing the problem, a long-term solution might involve a
stretching and strengthening program and orthotics that support the foot
and correct over-pronation. In more severe cases, ice massage,
electrostimuli, heat treatments and ultra-sound might be used.