Shin Splints - How to Help Them and How to Avoid Them

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Shin Splints

Shin splints (also known as medial tibial stress syndrome) is a common injury, particularly in those of us that are active. So, how can we tell if we have shin splints? And more importantly, what should we do if we ever get shin splints?

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How can we tell if we have shin splints?

Most symptoms for shin splints are pretty clear as the front and sides of the lower leg becomes tender. In various cases this can be painful! This pain can cause a lot of discomfort and is often caused by our shinbone’s and connective tissues that attach muscles to our bones being put under more stress than usual.

What should we do if experience any symptoms?

If when exercising pain is felt in the shins, it would be advised to stop immediately as too much stress can lead to swelling an inflammation of the shins surrounding tissue. The issue with shin splints is that there is no significant event in which you understand you have an injury, but more of a gradual increase of pain within the lower leg.

It is a common injury because it can be triggered by a variety of different reasons. Here are some of the most common:

  • Flat feet or overpronated feet – when the impact of a step makes our foot’s arch collapse.
  • Incorrect footwear – Shoes that don’t fit well or provide decent support.
  • Surface – continuous running on hard floors means repeated heavy impact
  • Stretches – Exercising without the correct warm-up or cool-down stretches.
  • Physical health – A weakness in our ankles, hips, or core muscles.
  • Too much too soon – Lack of rest time before exercising, meaning the surrounding tissues cannot recover.

For those of us that have been active for a considerable amount of time without any issue, it doesn’t mean that we won’t ever suffer from shin splints in the future. Symptoms can appear when we make sudden changes to exercise, for example more intense, more frequent, or longer workouts.

How can we treat them?

This isn’t something we should be overly worried about at first. They can often heal on their own but it is always advisable to see a Physiotherapist. Your therapist can thoroughly assess how you walk and run, looking at any potential imbalances and weaknesses that could lead to problems. They can also check for any signs of serious damage, such as fractures and bones weakness.

Things we can do to help.

  • Rest our bodies – they need time to recover.
  • Ice our shins – this will help to ease pain and swelling. We recommend icing it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain is gone.
  • Use insoles or orthotics for our shoes – a biomechanical expert will be able to help create us custom insoles that are designed specifically our feet. Particularly helpful for those of us that have collapsed arches or flat feet.
  • Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, if you need them. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofennaproxen, or aspirin, will help with pain and swelling.


How can we tell when our shin splints have healed?

Like most injuries, when we feel as good as new or our shin feels as good as our other shin, this is a good sign to say our shin splints have disappeared. When we are confident that we can walk, run and jump without any pain, we can go back to our normal exercise regime.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to say exactly how long shin splints take to heal. It all depends on what caused them and how long we have been suffering with them. Also, we all heal at different rates depending on diets and sometimes even genetics. It isn’t usually for some people to take up to 6 months to heal.

To give yourself the best possible chance of a safe, speedy recovery, reach out to one of our experts online using our FREE Ask A Physio service or book an assessment to receive professional advice and treatment to get you back to feeling you best as quickly as possible.

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