10 Suggestions for the Treatment of Shin Splints

Shin splints that go untreated can lead to more serious issues. See more sport pictures.
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Shooting pain starting in the front of your ankle and continuing up almost to your knee cap could be shin splints. When you touch the area on either side of your shin bone, it may feel sore and tender.

Most shin pain, although annoying, is minor and can be treated with the guidelines that follow. However, if the pain persists or recurs, see a doctor. Shin splints may develop into a stress fracture- -a tiny chip or crack in the bone. Stress fractures won't go away on their own and, without treatment, may become serious.


1. Don't Work Through the Pain

At best, shin splints won't get better and at worst, you'll be setting the stage for a more serious injury. At the first symptoms of shin splints, stay off your feet, or at the very least, decrease your mileage.


2. Ice Shins

Ice is the treatment of choice for reducing the inflammation of any sports injury, and shin splints are no exception. Massage shins with water that's been frozen in a foam or paper cup for 10 minutes at a time, up to four times a day for a week or two. You can also try icing shins splints with a bag of frozen vegetables, such as peas or corn kernels.


3. Tape It

Taping up your shin with an Ace bandage or with a neoprene sleeve that fits over the lower leg may be comforting for shin splints, because it compresses the muscles and permits less muscle movement.


4. Take Two Aspirin.

Over-the-counter analgesics, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (the ingredient found in Advil and Motrin-IB), are very effective in relieving the pain of shin splints. These medications bring down the swelling and inflammation that may come with these injuries. Acetominophen, the ingredient found in Tylenol and Anacin-3, may ease the pain, but they probably won't do much for inflammation caused by shin splints. Women who are pregnant or nursing a baby, as well as sensitive individuals, should check with their physicians before taking any medications.


5. Try an Athletic Insole

Since shin splints often arise as a result of excessive pounding, a padded insole placed inside the shoe may help soften the blow as your foot lands on hard ground.

Choosing an Athletic Shoe

A good athletic shoe is an important investment for anyone who runs or does aerobics. Wearing shoes with worn-out or poorly cushioned insoles only paves the way for overuse injuries, such as shin splints. When shopping for athletic shoes, look for a good fit (with at least a thumb's-width of room at the toe and the heel held firmly), good cushioning (especially in the forefoot, for an aerobics shoe) and extra-supportive material on the inside heel-edge of the sole.


Runners and walkers should replace their shoes approximately every 500 miles; aerobicizers every four to five months.

6. Tune in to Your Body

If your shin hurts, rest it, ice it, or talk with your doctor about it.


7. Stay Off the Cement

Exercise on forgiving surfaces such as a running track, crushed gravel, and grass. If you have to run on roads, try to choose streets paved in asphalt rather than concrete to reduce the likelihood of developing shin splints. If you do aerobics, stay away from cement floors, even those that are carpeted. Suspended wood floors are best.


8. Cross-train

One way to give rest to shin splints without cutting out exercise altogether is to switch to another type of activity. If you're a runner, add some swimming, stationary cycling, or other activities that don't tax your shins as much as running.


9. Don't Run on Hills

Running up and down hills may contribute to or aggravate shin splints.


10. Learn How to Prevent Injuries

Prevent the injury from occurring in the first place. Always warm up before exercising. Doing so relaxes the muscles and gets blood flowing to the tissues. Warm muscles are less likely than cold muscles to be injured. Warm up with a few minutes of walking or gentle stretching.