How to Get Rid of Shin Splints: (Best Shin Splint Relief)

Shin splints refer to pain along the shin bone or tibia, which is the large bone extending from beneath your knee to the front of your lower leg. The pain occurs at the attachment point of muscles to the shins and is commonly experienced during activities that stress the lower legs.

If diagnosed by a doctor, shin splints may be termed “medial tibial stress syndrome,” denoting the painful inflammation resulting from excessive strain on the muscles, tendons, and bone in the shins.

Types of Shin Splints

Shin splints can be caused by repeated stress from activities like running, especially without proper footwear. The pain may be felt on either side of the shin bone. Some descriptions categorize shin splints into anterior, medial, or posterior types, corresponding to the front, middle, or back of the leg and the associated muscles.

However, these distinctions are more about location than distinct types of injury, as shin splints generally refer to pain along the front of the lower legs due to overuse or stress. The most common location for pain is on the inner side.

Shin Splints vs. Stress Fractures

While shin splints involve pain and inflammation from overuse, stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bones. Both can result from excessive stress on the muscles, tendons, and bones in the lower legs. If shin splints persist without improvement, it’s crucial to consult a doctor to rule out conditions such as stress fractures in the tibia.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

Common symptoms of shin splints include:

  • Dull pain or aching along the front of one or both shins
  • Tenderness when touching the shins
  • Increased pain during exercise
  • Relief with rest
  • Mild swelling around the lower legs

What do shin splints feel like?

Shin splints may not be constant but may be felt only during activities that stress the shins. As the condition worsens, the pain may become persistent.

Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints can result from repetitive exercises or motions that strain the muscles, tendons, and bones around the shins. Sudden changes in exercise routines, such as increased intensity, frequency, or duration, can also contribute. Ill-fitting or worn-out shoes may be a factor. Certain activities, like running, dancing, or military training, are more likely to cause shin splints due to their impact on the lower legs. However, any exercise involving significant stress on the lower legs has the potential to cause shin splints.

Risk Factors for Shin Splints

Some individuals have a higher likelihood of developing shin splints, and certain exercise choices can increase the risk. Factors contributing to shin splints include:

  • Running, especially on uneven surfaces, uphill, or on hard materials like concrete.
  • Wearing ill-fitting or unsupportive shoes.
  • Having flat or inflexible feet.
  • Being overweight.
  • Skipping warm-up exercises before physical activity.
  • Neglecting to stretch after exercise.
  • Having a vitamin D deficiency.
  • Suffering from an eating disorder.
  • Possessing weaker-than-normal bones.

The structure and movement of your ankles and hips when walking or running also impact shin splint risk. If you’re physically active and concerned about shin splints, consult your doctor to assess your risk and explore preventive measures.

Shin Splint Treatment

Shin splints often improve without specific treatment within a few weeks. However, you can take steps to expedite healing:

  • Rest your legs by engaging in low-impact activities such as swimming or biking.
  • Apply ice packs to your shins for 20-30 minutes several times a day until the pain subsides.
  • Consider using insoles or orthotics to provide extra support, especially if you have flat feet or weak ankles.
  • Use compression bandages or socks if swelling is present.
  • Replace worn-out or insufficiently supportive shoes to reduce stress on your shins. Seek advice from a doctor or sports medicine expert for suitable running shoes.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to alleviate pain and swelling. Use them according to label instructions unless directed otherwise by your doctor.
  • Allow sufficient time for recovery before returning to your regular exercise routine, waiting for at least two pain-free weeks. Gradually reintroduce exercise, remembering to warm up and stretch beforehand. If pain recurs, stop and rest.

Shin Splint Massage

While massage may help relax the muscles around your shins, it’s essential to check with your doctor first. There is limited evidence that massage alone can resolve shin splints, and if not done correctly, it could potentially worsen the condition.

Shin Splint Stretches

Engaging in lower leg and ankle stretches may alleviate shin splint discomfort and aid in healing. Consult your doctor for guidance on stretches or exercises, and consider seeking advice from a physical therapist. Once you’ve recovered, incorporating stretching into your routine may help prevent future occurrences.

Stretches for Shin Splints

While it’s crucial to allow your shins some rest, you can perform gentle exercises at home to stretch your calves, shins, and ankles. If you’re uncertain or have questions, consider consulting a doctor or a physical therapist for guidance.

Here are some stretching exercises to try:

  1. Calf stretches: Sit on the floor with a towel around your toes and the ball of your foot, then pull the towel with your leg straight. Alternatively, stand facing a wall with your injured leg back, lean into the wall with your heel on the floor until you feel a stretch.
  2. Ankle stretches: Sit with your feet off the floor, move your ankle in all directions to write letters in the air. Another method is to loop an elastic band anchored to a chair around the top of your foot. While sitting, pull your toes toward you and then relax. Repeat these exercises as needed.

Other Exercises for Shin Splints

You can strengthen your lower legs, hips, and ankles with exercises using items you likely have at home:

  • Heel raises: Lift your heels off the floor for 5 seconds, repeating 15 times twice. Progress to one leg at a time as it becomes easier.
  • Standing toe raises: Rock back on your heels and lift your toes for 5 seconds with your feet flat on the floor. Repeat 15 times for two sets.
  • Balance exercises: Stand on your injured leg with a chair nearby, slightly bend your knee, reach in front of you, and bend at your waist without moving your knee. Repeat 15 times for two sets.
  • Reach exercises: Bend your knee slightly, reach your hand across your body toward a chair. Repeat 15 times for two sets.
  • Resisted hip exercises: Use an elastic band anchored to a door around your ankle while standing. Pull the elastic out to one side using your leg straight. Repeat 15 times for two sets.

Four Signs Your Shin Splints Have Healed

You’ll know your shins are fully healed when:

  • Your injured leg is as flexible and strong as the other leg.
  • You can press on spots that were once painful without discomfort.
  • You can engage in activities like jogging, sprinting, and jumping without pain.

How to Prevent Shin Splints

To prevent shin splints or their recurrence, consider the following tips:

  • Wear well-fitting and supportive shoes, preferably with guidance from athletic store staff.
  • Consider arch supports or shock-absorbing insoles for additional support.
  • Start new activities gradually to allow your body to adapt.
  • Incorporate low-impact sports like swimming or biking into your routine.
  • Include leg, ankle, hip, and core strengthening exercises in your workouts.
  • Consult a physical therapist or personal trainer to assess your movement and reduce the risk of shin splints.

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