A Short Guide to Shin Splints

Shin splints, known medically as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common sports injury. They are characterised by pain in the shins, or elsewhere in the lower legs, and are especially common in runners, as well as in people who play certain sports. They can sometimes be healed through rest and preventative measures, but some people require physiotherapy and other treatments to get better. This short guide explains shin splints, from the initial symptoms through to treatment and prevention.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

The main symptom of shin splints is pain, usually in the front or sides of your lower leg. Bupa describes this pain in more details, saying that it is a severe, aching pain, often accompanied by tenderness. They also explain that there may be mild swelling and that the pain will probably stop or ease when resting, and intensify when exercising. If you have these symptoms, and they do not seem to improve with time and rest, make an appointment with your GP. 

Diagnosing Shin Splints

The first step towards being diagnosed with shin splints should be a visit to your GP. They will examine your legs, ask about your physical activity, and may arrange for you to have an x-ray to rule out other conditions. They will then advise you on the best course of action, and refer you to a physiotherapist or orthopaedic specialist as necessary. 

Treatment For Shin Splints

Most cases of shin splints can be treated at home, with rest and pain relief. The NHS lists some of the things you can do, including holding an ice pack against your shins, using over-the-counter pain relief, and temporarily switching to low-impact exercises such as swimming and yoga. If your shin splints are severe enough to require further treatment, a range of options are available. A common one, as explained by WebMD, is to see a physiotherapist, who will help you to relieve your pain and strengthen your muscles. You may also be prescribed special shoe supports or a supportive sleeve if it is determined that your style of walking or running is causing the problem. 

Preventing Shin Splints

As shin splints are typically caused by the way you exercises, there are measures you can take to prevent them. You should make sure that you run on soft, flat surfaces, in shoes that fit well. You should also avoid drastically increasing your amount of physical activity, and instead build up to your desired level of activity. Build some time for warming up and cooling down into your workout - Runner's World has some suggested stretches for avoiding shin splints.

While shin splints can be painful and can disrupt your carefully-planned workout routine, they are generally treatable at home with rest and care. However, if your shin splints fail to heal naturally, make sure that you see your GP to discuss physiotherapy and other options.