How to Prevent and Treat Shin Splints

Shin splints are very common—especially in runners who increase their workout intensity or a change their running surface (like shifting from well-paved roads to asphalt). Shin splints are also known as a cumulative stress disorder. In non-fancy terms, this means that a repeated pounding and stress on the bones, muscles, and joints of the lower legs prevents them from being able to heal naturally. As a runner once said, shin splints are best summarized by the following sentence: “Too much, too soon”.

Shin splints can also be caused for the following reasons1:

  • Irritated and swollen muscles, often from overuse
  • Stress fractures, which are tiny breaks in the lower leg bones
  • Weakness in the muscles of the hips or core

Preventing shin splints

The best way to prevent shin splints from happening is by keeping these tips in mind1:

Invest in a good pair of shoes – Although slightly more expensive, spend a few extra dollars to invest in a solid pair of shoes that have good support and padding. It’s easy (and usually free) to get your running stride evaluated at a running store. This makes the process of getting the right shoe for your foot type much easier.

Stretch the muscles in your legs, especially after workouts – Stretch after your workout. In the post-workout period, your muscles have warmed up and will be much more relaxed.

Improve strength by stabilizing your core, hips, and ankles – Stabilizing your core muscles gives you greater strength in the parts of your body that need it. Yoga is great for increasing your core strength but think about adding weights into your exercise routine to build up the lower leg muscles that you need for support.

Stop working out as soon as you feel pain in your shins – This is a must. Pushing your body past the point of pain will only do more damage in the long run. While exercising, if you notice ongoing pain in your legs that is sharp or shooting in nature, stop what you’re doing.

Treatment Tips for Shin Splints

Shin splints often heal on their own but the process may be helped along by doing the following1:

Rest your body – This is especially important because shin splints are primarily caused by overuse of the muscles. Resting your legs gives your bones and muscles the time they need to heal.

Pain relief – If your shin splints are causing you a significant amount of pain then apply an ice pack to your shins. Do this for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days or until the pain is gone. Also, consider using simple over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin. As with any medication, they should only be used sparingly. If you still need painkillers one week after your injury, then be sure to see your doctor.

Helpful accessories – If you have flat-feet then try orthotics for your shoes. These are shoe inserts which can be custom-made or bought off the shelf and may help with arches that collapse or flatten when you stand up. Other accessories include a neoprene sleeve which can be used to support and warm your leg.

Do ‘range-of-motion exercises’ -If your doctor or physical therapist recommends them.

Physical therapist – Seeing a PT for shin splints is not mandatory and usually isn’t necessary but if you’re continuously suffering from them, then a trip to see a PT might be in order. PTs can identify and treat issues in your back or legs or running mechanics that may be causing recurring shin splints.


Lastly, if the pain of your shin splints does not improve or gets worse over the course of a week then make an appointment to see your doctor. They’ll be able to examine your leg and possibly order X-rays is something more serious like a fracture is suspected.

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1- WebMD. Shin splints. Reviewed by Ross Brakeville, DPT on October 16, 2016.



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