Shin splints are microscopic tears in the leg muscles that both novice and seasonsed athletes may develop
Shin splints refers to the pain in the front or on the inner side of the lower leg where the muscles attach to the shin bone (tibia).
Both novice and seasoned athletes are prone to developing shin splints.
How Shin Splints Develop
Shin splints often develop when a person changes training surfaces or footwear. They can also be caused by muscle imbalances or by a sudden increase in how hard or how long you train.
Inflexible muscles of the upper thigh can lead to shin splints in runners: flexible muscles are more efficient at absorbing shock, and when the thigh muscles can’t absorb the impact, it vibrates down the length of the leg.
With the novice exerciser, poor running or walking technique can also cause shin splints.
How to Treat Shin Splints
Ice and rest are the immediate recommendation for treating shin splints. Stop the activity that caused the injury, or substitute low-impact activities like swimming or cycling until you are pain free.
See your doctor if the injury is chronic and severe. Your physician may suggest X-rays, anti-inflammatory medications and/or a visit to a physiotherapist. An analysis of your running and walking technique may be required, or you may need an assessment to rule out structural problems of the legs and feet.
To lower your risk of developing shin splints, exercise to strengthen all the muscles of the lower leg, and always stretch before and after physical activity.
Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.