“Shin Splints” is a term people use to indicate generalized pain below the knee, on the outside or inside part of the leg. Runners and athletes typically get shin splints when they suddenly go too far too fast, or make an abrupt change in their routine. There are two types of shin splints, anterior (on the front of the leg), and medial (on the inside of the leg). Sometimes a stress fracture can be mistaken for shin splints. If you press your fingers against the shin and find a localized spot of pain, that is a sign of a stress fracture and should be treated accordingly. The following includes care tips and prevention of shin splints. Please note that the information in this article is not intended to replace evaluation by a medical professional.
Care & Prevention
If you notice pain in your lower legs, stop your current physical activity and decrease your training regime. Ice the shin to reduce inflammation, get rest, and stretch. Proper stretching and a gradual increase in physical activity, rather than abrupt changes, are the key to preventing shin splints.
If you suspect medial shin splints (pain on the inside of the leg) gently stretch your Achilles tendon. For anterior shin splints (pain on the front of the leg) stretch your calf muscles.
In a kneeling position on a carpeted floor, keep your legs and feet close together, with the tops of the feet on the ground. Slowly sit back on your calves and heels. Try to push your ankles into the floor until you feel the stretch in your shin and hold for 10 to 12 seconds. Relax and repeat.
While sitting on a chair, try tracing the alphabet on the floor with your toes. Also, alternate between walking normally and then on your heels for 30 seconds each. Repeat these stretches four times, up to three times a day for both shin splint prevention and recovery.
Wrapping Shin Splints
If you must continue exercising, wrap the shin with tape. Beginning just above the ankle, wrap all the way up to just below the knee. It can take up to three to six weeks for shin splints to heal, so continue wrapping the leg until then. Increase the activity in your routine slowly to prevent a repeat episode.