Shin splits describe the type of pain along the shinbone (tibia), the large bone in front of the lower leg. It is common in runners, dancers, and other sports involving running, such as soccer and basketball.
This injury usually heals within a few weeks of rest and treatment. If left untreated, this can cause several complications.
What are Shin Splints
Shin splints refer to the inflammation of the tendons attaching the muscle to the tibia.
The inflammation is a warning sign that the shin muscles cannot handle the stress due to a sudden high-pressure twist or movement. Shin splints are the most common cause of overuse injury in any sporting activity that involves running, such as in track and field.
Signs and Symptoms
Shin splints can occur to one or both legs, and the people who have them will experience pain on the inside edge of the shinbones.
Other common signs of this injury include:
- The injury site is tender and may be sore to touch.
- The overlying skin may be red, swelling, or inflamed.
- Pain occurs before, during, or after the run.
Shin splints typically occur from high impact activities (often repetitive ones) that give rise to the inflammation.
Some people have an unusually high risk of getting this injury. These include people regularly engaging in activities such as running, dancing, and gymnastics. It is also common for those who have flat feet, who are wearing ill-fitting or worn-out shoes, and those who exercise on hard surfaces.
A sudden increase in training levels and being new to a high-impact sport can contribute to this injury. Obesity or being overweight is also a risk factor.
In most cases, shin splints are treatable with a few simple first aid steps.
Once you begin to experiencing pain that may indicate an injury, stop doing the activity to avoid further swelling or discomfort.
Apply an ice pack to the injury site for around 15 minutes. Repeat this five to six times a day for the next couple of days. Do not apply it directly to the skin – wrapped in a clean cloth is a far better solution.
Take over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). This will help to reduce and manage the pain.
Below are some things you can do to prevent shin splints.
- Avoid sudden increases in the level of activity.
It is best to gradually increase the activity level in many sports such as running, jumping, and walking, rather than jumping straight into the activity. Warming up before exercising can also help.
Try to spread out days between activities and, if possible, alternate the type of exercise you do to avoid putting much pressure on the shin bone.
- Exercise on soft surfaces
Avoid doing exercises on hard surfaces such as concrete and sidewalks. Doing so will only increase the force the bones and muscles must absorb. It can result in muscle overuse and fatigue and eventually end in shin splints.
Chose soft surfaces to exercise on, such as grass, wood floors, and synthetic tracks. That way, it will prevent your bones, muscles, and joints from absorbing too much shock.
- Buy appropriate and right-fitting shoes.
Shoes that fill poorly or are not designed for certain types of exercise can increase your risk of shin splints.
- Maintain healthy body weight.
Obesity and an increase in weight can lead to a higher risk of this injury.
Once you’ve got them, shin splints can take several weeks or even months to return in total health. When the pain finally settles, the person can gradually return to their normal routine. Don’t try to return to fast, high-impact activities until you’re ready – you’ll just end up doing more damage and taking longer to heal.
Prompt first aid treatment can help reduce-long term damage from this injury. Talk to your doctor and learn first aid to recognize signs and symptoms of shin splints.