You may have wondered what was wrong if you’ve ever felt major pain in your shins while running or exercising. You probably have an extremely common condition known as shin splints.
Shin splints can hobble many runners and keep them from exercise while they heal. But fortunately, you can take steps to prevent them, as well as to heal them. The Run Doctor providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine explain more about preventing and treating shin splints.
The cause of shin splints
You’ll know you have shin splints if you feel pain in the lower part of your leg, between your knee and ankle. Shin splints are technically known by their medical name: medial tibial stress syndrome. It’s more likely to affect athletes who engage in moderate to heavy workouts.
Activities that commonly cause shin splints include the following:
The pain may become so intense that you must stop the activity altogether.
How to prevent shin splints
It may not always be possible to prevent shin splints. But it can help if you take the following actions:
- Wear supportive shoes, including custom orthotics if necessary
- Stretch your muscles before exercise to warm them up
- Start your workouts more slowly and increase your activity at a gradual pace
- Avoid running on uneven or hilly surfaces
- Consider switching activities a couple of times a week; swimming is often helpful
The best thing you can do is use pain as a guide. If you’re pushing yourself hard enough that it hurts, take that as a cue to dial back on the intensity of your workout a little.
How to treat shin splints
If you have shin splints, you may be relieved that it’s not permanent. It will eventually get better if you take the appropriate time to rest.
In the meantime, you can try some or all of the following strategies to treat your shin splints:
- Rest. Your body is sending you very clear signals; pay attention to them
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®)
- Apply ice packs to your shins to reduce the pain and swelling
- Consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D3
- Physical therapy
Fortunately, complications from shin splints are relatively rare. However, if you continue to exercise while dealing with shin splints, you may develop tiny fractures in the bone.
If you have shin splints, they may sideline you for a bit but know that you can return to your activity level once you heal. Contact the Run Doctor providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine today or request an appointment online.