Shin Splints Explained


Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) is a common exercise-related problem. Pain along the inner edge of the tibia usually occurs due to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and boney tissues around your shin bone. Other symptoms may include mild swelling, dull or throbbing pain during and after exercise, and tenderness to the touch over the sore area.

Is it serious?

Shin splints are often related to changes in a training program, such as a sudden increase in intensity or volume of training. Running on hard or uneven surfaces, biomechanical abnormalities, or wearing improper footwear are other potential causes of pain. Shin splints are usually not too serious and will resolve with rest and appropriate changes in training. However, if left untreated, shin splints can develop further complications such as a stress fracture.


Relative rest. The aggravating activity should be stopped immediately, but you can continue to maintain cardiovascular fitness through low impact exercise such as cycling or pool running.

NSAIDs. Anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) can help reduce swelling and pain. Consult your doctor regarding the proper dosage.

Ice. Apply ice to the area for 15-20 minutes following activity to decrease pain and inflammation.

Compression. An Ace bandage or compression sleeve applied to the lower leg can help reduce discomfort. 

Supportive shoes. Choose shoes with good shock absorption and change your training shoes every 4-5 months. You may benefit from over the counter orthotics or insoles to help with arch support and proper foot biomechanics.

Exercises. Calf stretching, eccentric calf strengthening, proprioceptive balance training, and ankle strengthening will prevent recurrence of injury. Improving the strength of the muscles in your foot and calf will allow for better shock absorption and alleviate some of the stress on your tibia while running and jumping.

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