Treating Shin Splints
If you are a runner, endurance athlete, or participate in a sport that involves a lot of “fancy footwork,” (i.e., tennis, dancing, or soccer), chances are you or someone you know has suffered from shin splints. This common overuse injury isn’t usually serious, but can be painful enough to sideline even the toughest athlete.
What exactly is a shin splint?
Sports doctors call shin splints “medial tibial stress syndrome,” which refers to a number of soft tissue injuries near the tibia (lower leg bone). The pain may stem from inflammation in the muscle running along the tibia, or inflammation in the sheath of connective tissue that covers the tibia. It is also possible that the muscle attached to the tibia is starting to tear away from the bone.
What do shin splints feel like?
Not all shin pain means you have shin splints—and if you have severe or ongoing discomfort, it’s important to speak with your physician so you can rule out other more serious conditions, such as a stress fracture or compartment syndrome (swelling of lower leg muscles within the surrounding connective tissue).
Pain from shin splits tends to be generalized on the front of the lower leg along the outside (anterior) or inside (medial) of the shin bone, particularly when flexing the foot, walking, or running. The pain can be dull or sharp, but unlike a stress fracture, there isn’t a “hot spot” on the bone that you can pinpoint with pressure. Shin splints typically feel worse first thing in the morning or with heavy activity.
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What causes shin splints?
The most common cause for shin splints is overuse—simply doing too much too soon. Other possibilities include:
- Abruptly switching from flat to hilly or rough terrain
- Wearing improperly fitting or worn out shoes
- An overpronating foot
- Strength imbalances in the calf or ankle
How to treat shin splints
The first thing to do if you have shin splints is to reduce your training load, or take a break from training if necessary. Icing the shins and stretching the calves and Achilles can also reduce inflammation and ease pain.
Taping the foot and/or lower leg prior to activity with sports tape or kinesiology tape or QUICK TAPE® can also help treat shin splints. QUICK TAPE® works by supporting the arch and helping to align the foot during walking, running, standing or dancing. The support of reduces stress on the ankle and lower leg that can lead to shin splints. Runners and triathletes often use QUICK TAPE® as a preventative measure during events or long training days to reduce risk of pain from overuse injury.