It’s not just fitness fanatics adamant about getting in their daily jog who are in danger of developing shin splints. Anyone who has flat feet, poorly fitting shoes or weak ankles, hips or core muscles are susceptible to shin splints as well.
Referred to by some doctors as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints usually develop as a result of continuous force being applied to the shin bone (tibia) and the connective tissue that attaches the shin bone to the muscles around it.
That continuous force can lead to a swelling of the muscles around the tibia. When those muscles are swollen, more pressure is applied to the tibia and the result can be a variety of symptoms, most of which are more annoying than anything else.
For example, someone suffering from shin splints may feel nothing more than a dull ache in their shins or a swelling in the lower leg. Others, however, may experience sharp, jabbing pains in and around their shin during exercise or numbness in their feet.
In more severe cases, the shin of someone suffering from shin splints may feel hot or painful to the touch, the lower part of their legs may feel weak, or they may experience prolonged bone or muscle pain in the lower leg and calf.
In those more severe cases, some of which are the cause of small cracks or fractures in the bone, it may be best to consult a doctor. In most cases, however, shin splints can usually be treated by adhering to some common treatment methods.
The most effective treatment method is rest – and lots of it. Depending on the cause of your shin splints, the time needed to recover properly can be anywhere from three to six months. In less severe cases, however, a few weeks of rest may do the trick.
That may seem like a lot, particularly for a workout warrior type who is accustomed to hitting the gym three or more times a week or running every day, but there are other activities that can be done to maintain good fitness while shin splints are healing.
Riding a bike, swimming or using an elliptical machine provides many of the same cardiovascular benefits that running does, and none of those activities put the same degree of stress on the legs that running does.
In addition to rest, icing the area of the leg that is painful or uncomfortable for 20 to 30 minutes three to four times a day until the pain is gone helps to reduce the bothersome effects of shins splints, too.
As is the case with a lot of aches and pains, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin if your doctor allows it will further advance the healing process as well.
With extensive use of all the above, though, some side effects such as bleeding and ulcers can develop. Always be sure to follow label directions specifically when using those over-the-counter aids and if possible consult your doctor before taking them.
Finally, for those whose shin splints are more a result of physical issues such as flat feet or poor-fitting footwear, the use of orthotic shoe inserts or a better fitting pair of shoes can make all the difference in the world.
You’ll know your shin splints are gone when you resume whatever constitutes normal activity and you can apply pressure to the area that used to hurt without feeling pain or run and jump without feeling any pain in or around the shins.
Prior to that, though, strengthening your core muscles and the area around your hips and increasing your intake of foods such as milk and yogurt that are high in calcium and Vitamin D can help prevent shin splints from coming back.
Remember, it’s not just weekend warriors and fitness fanatics who get shin splints. Anyone can get them. The good news is that no one has to suffer from them for very long.