Shin splints are a condition that typically occur from physical activity, causing pain and swelling in the front of the lower leg or shin.

Although the term "shin splints" is often used to label any pain at the front of the lower leg, it actually refers to a condition called medial tibial stress syndrome or MTSS. The information below addresses shin splints as related to MTSS.

Shin splint causes

In most cases, shin splints are caused by overuse; however, shin splints may also be caused by improper running techniques or muscle tightness.

Common shin splint causes include:

  • Exercising on uneven ground. 
  • Increase of intensity or duration of exercise routine too quickly. 
  • Poor running mechanics (excessive forward or backwards lean, landing on balls of feet, outward pointing toes, etc.). 
  • Repetitive impact on the lower leg during jogging, running, or hiking. 
  • Running or excessive walking on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete.
  • Starting an exercise regimen after a period of inactivity. 
  • Tight or stiff lower-leg muscles. 
  • Wearing worn-out or improperly fitted shoes during exercise.

Shin splints symptoms

Shin pain is the most common symptom of shin splints. The pain may be present at the start of exercise and might decrease as the exercise session continues; however, the pain might be worse the day following exercise.

Another possible sign of shin splints is swelling or the formation of lumps or bumps on the shin.

Shin splints treatment

The basic treatment for shin splints is similar to other soft tissue injuries: use the R.I.C.E. guidelines of rest, ice, compression, and elevation to relieve the pain.

Other treatments for shin splints include: 

  • Replacing usual workout routine with non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming or cycling. 
  • Stretching lower-leg muscles. 
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication (aspirin or ibuprofen) to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Taping the shin to take pressure off of muscles. 
  • Using heat therapy on muscles prior to exercise. 
  • Wearing shock-absorbing insoles in shoes.

If the above treatments do not relieve the pain associated with your shin splints, visit your doctor for additional rehabilitation techniques.

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