Shin splints are pain to either side of the leg bone, caused by muscle or tendon inflammation. It is commonly related to a collapsing arch, but may be related to a muscle imbalance between opposing muscle groups in the leg.
Proper stretching and corrective shoes or shoe inserts for pronation can help prevent shin splints.
What Do Shin Splints Feel Like?
Shin splints cause dull, aching pain in the front of the lower leg. Some people feel it only during exercise; others, when they've stopped exercising. Sometimes, the pain is constant.
Depending on the exact cause, the pain may be located along either side of the shinbone or in the muscles. The area may be painful to the touch. Swollen muscles can sometimes irritate the nerves in the feet, causing them to feel weak or numb.
To diagnose shin splints, your doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. He or she may want to see you run to look for problems. You may also need X-rays or bone scans to look for fractures. Other tests are sometimes necessary.
What's the Treatment for Shin Splints?
Although shin splints may be caused by different problems, treatment is usually the same: Rest your body so the underlying issue heals. Here are some other things to try:
- Icing the shin to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days, or until the pain is gone.
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers.
- Orthotic Arch supports for your shoes.
- Range of motion exercises, if your doctor recommends them.
- Neoprene sleeve to support and warm the leg.
- Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your shins.
In rare cases, surgery is needed for severe stress fractures and other problems that can cause shin splints.