Shin splints are a common injury. Seen most often in new runners, they can be painful but typically come with a shorter recovery time than the dreaded stress fracture. Here’s how to identify your shin splints, treat them and avoid getting them again.
What are shin splints: They are the common name for a medial condition officially known as medial tibial stress syndrome. A shin splint causes pain along the bone at the front of the lower leg, the tibia, and is most frequently seen in new runners or those increasing mileage.
What causes them? Shin splints are the result of inflammation of the muscles, tissues and tendons surrounding the tibia. This inflammation most often comes from a sudden change in training routines. It can also be caused by worn out shoes, another injury, weak hips or a lack of core stability.
Symptoms: Tenderness and soreness along the length of the tibia as well as possible swelling are red flags. Sometimes pain will disappear with activity but it will eventually become constant. If you reach the point of constant pain, be sure to rule out the more serious stress fracture by getting an x-ray.
Treatment Options: Shin splints are best treated by slowing things down. Decrease mileage or try water running. Lower impact activities are a must until the inflammation goes away. Anti-inflammatories, ice and heat are additional options. This is also a good time to make sure you have a quality shoe that offers the support you need and isn’t worn out.
Recovery: The most important part of recovery is to figure out what caused your injury. Treat the source of the shin splints, not just the symptom. Have a gait analysis. Strengthen weak areas like hips and core muscles. Ease back into activity, coming back from this injury slowly. Too much, too soon will inevitably lead to reinjury.