Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, refer to a condition where pain develops along the inner edge of the shinbone. They most frequently form in athletes who participate in high-impact activities that involve running and jumping. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid and treat shin splints.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are typically caused by overuse or repetitive stress on the shinbone and surrounding muscles and tissues. This may occur when you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your exercise routine or if you exercise with poor form. Other factors that may contribute to the development of shin splints include:
- Wearing shoes that don’t provide adequate support
- Exercising consistently on hard and unforgiving surfaces
- Having flat feet or high arches
If you’re experiencing shin splints, it may involve:
- Swelling and bruising in the affected area
- Tenderness to the touch
- Exacerbated pain when you exercise or put weight on the affected leg
- Stiffness or tightness in the lower leg’s muscles
- Dull or sharp aching
Ways to Avoid Shin Splints
Although shin splints are fairly common, they are largely preventable. By practicing these techniques, you can significantly lower your chances of developing this painful condition:
1. Wear Adequate Footwear
Wearing adequate footwear and custom orthotics can provide support and cushioning for your feet, reducing the forceful impact on your shins. Firstly, it is highly recommended you consult your foot and ankle specialist at NJ Spine and Wellness, Dr. Ammar Saymeh, to establish the status of your foot health and to receive custom orthotics to protect your foot and ankle. At NJ Spine and Wellness, custom orthotics are created using a 3D scanner, making the process fast and convenient. The next step is to find shoes that are right for you by visiting a running specialty store. Most running specialty stores have treadmills and specialists on-site to evaluate your unique running form, gait, and foot structure. Based on these factors and your exercise goals, running specialists can give you personalized shoe recommendations. Once you have the correct footwear, it’s important to replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles to ensure optimal shock absorption.
2. Gradually Increase Your Mileage
One of the most common causes of shin splints is when runners increase their workout duration and intensity too quickly. If you do not allow your body ample recovery time or run too much too soon, you can severely injure yourself. Remember to listen to your body and not run through the pain.
3. Alternate Surfaces
Consistently exercising on hard and unforgiving surfaces is another leading cause of shin splints. To avoid developing shin splints, change up your running or exercising surface. Exercising on more forgiving surfaces like dirt or sand is an effective way to minimize the impact on your body and prevent shin splints.
4. Use Proper Form
Whether you’re running long distances or playing volleyball, using proper form when exercising is key in avoiding shin splints. Maintaining proper form improves your efficiency and reduces your chances of injury.
5. Complete Strengthening Exercises
If you start to feel shin pain while running or exercising, it may be due to weak muscles in your lower legs. Performing strengthening exercises may help improve the pain in your shins, such as:
- Toe raises
- Heel raises
- Foam rolling
- Low lunge ankle stretch
- Hip lifts with heel pull
- Forearm plank
- Single-leg balance
- Pigeon pose
These stretches may also be done during your warm-up and cool down once you have finished, which are crucial to optimize the benefits of your workout.
Ways to Treat Shin Splints
If you get shin splints, treating them as early as possible is essential before they progress into a more serious injury, like a stress fracture. Stress fractures occur when little cracks form in the bone and can be more difficult to heal than shin splints. Here are a few ways to treat shin splints:
- Rest: take a break from high-impact activities that aggravate your shin splints
- Ice: apply ice to the affected area for about 20 minutes several times a day
- Compression: wear compression stockings to help reduce swelling
- Elevation: raise your legs above heart level to further decrease swelling
- NSAIDs: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help ease your discomfort
- Orthotics: shoe inserts may help support your arches and reduce stress on the structures in your lower legs
- Physical therapy: may improve your mobility, increase your strength, and lower your pain
Once your shin splints have been treated, it is critical to continue practicing preventative techniques to ensure they don’t return.
Treat Your Shin Splints at NJ Spine and Wellness
If your shin splints do not resolve after these treatments or if they return frequently, it may be time to seek professional help. Contact NJ Spine and Wellness, where your foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Ammar Saymeh can help identify the presence of a more severe injury and recommend the best course of treatment to help you get better faster.