How to Treat & Beat Shin Splints

After training for, or running in, one of the many races during the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon weekend you may begin to experience common pain associated with running called shin splints. Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), present themselves as pain along the tibia (the large bone in front of the lower leg). This pain can feel either dull or sharp. It is caused by improper running mechanics, repetitive pounding, or increase in exercise intensity/duration without proper progression.

Running is a repetitive, high impact movement. With as much repetition that occurs through training and racing, you may start to experience trauma or a “wearing down” of certain muscles or joints. Muscles, tendons and bone tissue may become overworked and inflammation and pain will occur.

There are several things you can do to help prevent and recover from shin splints:

  • Rest - In order for recovery to take place you must rest the affected area. Training through it is possible, but aggrevating the condition will cause it to take longer to go away. Switch to low-impact exercise to stay conditioned.
  • Ice - Icing will help reduce swelling/inflammation and dull the pain by constricting blood vessels.
  • Compression - Using compression socks or sleeves will help reduce swelling and add support to your lower limb while running.
  • Anti-inflammatory - Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and will help reduce inflammation. Always consult your doctor before taking meds.
  • Proper footwear - Wearing the appropriate footwear that matches your foot strike pattern and running style will help reduce the impact of running. Avoid running on old, worn out shoes.
  • Technique - Running technique can be trained. Learning proper technique will help reduce impact of running and you will be able to run more efficiently.
  • Stretching - Stretching can help increase performance and reduce injury. Stretching should not just be isolated the lower limb either. Being flexible throughout the entire body will enable your body to move how it is meant to move, thus reducing wear and tear on certain joints and muscles that are caused to overwork when you are tight.

Incorporate these treatment methods at the first signs of shin splints. Left untreated, shin splints will progressively worsen to more serious problems such as stress fractures.

Still need help? A personal trainer can train you in proper running technique and help you to improve and maintain good flexibility and healthy range of motion. If your shin splints are severe, a physical therapist can guide you through an individualized treatment plan so you can get back on the road as soon as possible.

Have a question? Ask an Expert!