Treating Shin Splints

By Fawn Farley , last updated December 23, 2011

Properly treating shin splints involves understanding why you've developed shin splints in the first place. There are several injuries that can occur to result in the lower, frontal leg pain known as shin splints. For the most part, this pain develops due to too much exercise or a change in the normal exercise routine. Runners are among the most likely to develop shin splints, but other leg-jarring sports such as basketball and dance are also culprits. Once you've determined why you've developed shin splints, then you can learn the best treatment.

Physical Mechanics

Several factors can lead to shin splints, such as poor footwear, hard or uneven running surface, and incorrect body mechanics. If you have flat feet or rigid arches, you may be more prone to shin splints. Good shoes are essential for an avid runner. Make sure your shoes have good support. Don't skimp on the cost of your running shoes! Also pay attention to your running surface. Hard or uneven surfaces will definitely aggravate shin splints. Lastly, and perhaps most hardest to fix, is how you move. You may be in the habit of overextending or twisting certain muscles when you run. Consult a professional for help with the latter issue.

Rest

Unfortunately, ceasing your running routine is almost always the first step to treating shin splints. Stop doing the activity that is aggravating the pain in your legs! Get off your feet and elevate your legs. Avoid the activity in question until normal, everyday use no longer bothers the shins. At this point, you will need to slowly reintroduce the exercise or training. Do not continue with the same regiment, as this will just bring the shin splints right back. During this time, you can switch to a less jarring, cardio activity such as swimming or bicycling.

Pain Relief

Shin splints are an inflammation of the muscles and joints surrounding the shin bone and can be very painful. To relieve the pain, first stop the activity that is causing the pain. Then, you can elevate and ice the injured area. Ice for about 20 minutes at a time on a regular basis. Taking an anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen can reduce swelling.

Stretches

Stretching and strengthening the ankle and calf muscles can help prevent injuries from recurring. Each slow and gentle stretch should be held for 15-20 seconds. Stand with the hands on a wall, placing the injured foot behind the other, both with toes facing the wall. Keeping your back leg straight, slowly bend the front knee until you feel the muscles in the back of the calf stretch. Hold. Standing in the same position, slowly bend your injured knee until you feel the stretch in your heel.

Strength Exercises

Use an exercise band to strengthen the muscles. Put one end around the middle of the foot and the other end of the band around a leg post or shut in a door. Move yourself in a variety of positions, allowing resistance for you to move your ankle in the direction opposite the post or door. Do this for all directions so your ankle gets a full rotational stretch. Do not do any stretch or exercise if it hurts. The point is to ease pain, build muscles, and get you back on your feet again.

Resources and References
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