Have you ever felt a throbbing sensation in your shins after starting a new exercise program? That’s likely shin splints, an overuse injury from too much stress on the connective tissue that attaches the muscle to your shinbone.
Though common in athletes and active men and women, shin splints can affect anyone. Your first instinct may be to work through the pain, but without proper treatment, shin splints may cause stress fractures.
At Douglas J. Ables MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, our team of health experts specializes in sports medicine and the treatment of shin splints.
Here, we want to share with you what you can do to heal this common overuse injury.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints cause pain along the inner ridge of your shinbone (tibia), which is the sharp bone at the front of your lower leg. The pain results from inflammation and irritation of the muscles, tendons, and connective tissue attached to your shin bone.
We refer to this overuse injury as medial tibial stress syndrome. The inflammation and irritation that lead to the pain develops from repetitive use of the lower leg.
You’re more likely to develop shin splints when there’s a change in physical activity. Maybe you develop the aching pain when you resume your usual exercise program after taking a few months off. Or you’ve decided to up your game a bit, increasing the intensity or length of your workout.
You may also be more likely to develop shin splints if you wear poor-fitting shoes during your workout or you have flat feet or a high arch.
Healing shin splints
Shin splints heal on their own, but require a change in your workout routine. We recommend you take a few weeks off from the activity that caused your shin splints.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop working out altogether. You just need to change up your routine. Instead of high-impact running, try swimming or biking.
Apply cold compresses to your aching shins a few times a day to ease pain. We also recommend stretching exercises and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
After two weeks of being pain-free, you can start to resume your usual workout. But you should take it slow, working out at a lower intensity or for a shorter duration and slowly increasing to your ultimate workout goal.
If you feel pain when resuming your usual workout (even at a lower intensity), stop exercising for at least two days and ice your legs. When you go back to working out, you need to start out at an even lower intensity.
Preventing shin splints
Exercise is good for your health and can improve your athletic performance. But you may feel discouraged if shin splints are a recurring problem that derails your efforts.
Taking steps to prevent shin splints may help you reach your workout goals without pain or the need to take time off from your routine.
First, you need to wear supportive shoes when exercising. Workout shoes don’t last forever. We can help determine when you need new shoes for your workout.
For a frame of reference, we recommend runners get a new pair of running shoes every 300 miles. You may also benefit from shoe inserts or orthotics if you have flat feet or a high arch.
And when starting or changing your workout routine, go slowly. Warm up before your workout and cool down after.
If you’re not sure where or how to start, we can refer you to physical therapy for a personalized exercise program that focuses on your fitness goals while preventing injuries like shin splints.
Shin splints are a common injury that derails your workout. Taking steps to heal your shin splints can prevent complications like stress fractures. Let us help you heal your shin splints so you can get back to your active lifestyle. Contact our office today to request an appointment.