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What Are Shin Splints?What Are Shin Splints?


What Are Shin Splints?

Pain and tenderness in the front of the lower leg around the shinbone may be a sign of shin splints. Shin splints are most likely the result of small tears in the muscle tissue, bone stress, inflammation of the tissue around the shin, or a combination of these factors.

Shin splints are common in beginner runners who increase mileage too quickly and those who run on surfaces that cause extra stress on one leg, like a sloped track. It can also affect those who exercise on hard surfaces, like tennis players and dancers. Overpronation, lack of stretching, old shoes, and an imbalance in the development of the calf and surrounding muscles can all result in shin splints.

To heal shin splints, stop training until you can return to your activities without pain.

  • Apply ice packs to the shins regularly for about 15 to 20 minutes, 4 to 8 times daily.
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling.
  • Compression wraps or orthotics might help with proper leg alignment.
  • Adequate stretching may also help.

Suggested Targeted Stretch: Kneel with the tops of your feet flat along the floor. Sit back onto your heels to feel a stretch along your shins.

Once you are ready to return to training, start slowly and progress gradually. Runners should limit mileage increases to 10 percent per week and slowly add changes in terrain. Also, switch up the direction you run on roads and sloped tracks. Incorporate cross-training to create balance in muscle development, and get fitted for appropriate shoes for your activities.

Shin splints can be mistaken for other exercise injuries, such as compartment syndrome (swelling of muscles in one area) and stress fractures. Be sure to involve your healthcare provider to determine the cause of your leg pain and develop a treatment plan.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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