3 Step Solution: Shin Splints

The term shin splints is commonly used to indicate pain in the lower leg. Technically, medial tibial stress syndrome (MTTS) are true shin splints. There are other issues which may be misclassified as shin splints, some of which can be life threatening so it’s important to get a diagnosis from a qualified health provider.

Your shin bone (tibia) is the larger of the 2 lower leg bones. You know the one I’m talking about if you’ve ever banged you lower leg against furniture or had some misbehaving toddler kick you!

What’s your shin splint risk level? The more "yes" answers, the higher your risk.
  • You are a beginning runner or you’ve had a previous occurrence of shin splints. usually attributable to biomechanical issues as well as training intensity mistakes
  • Do you participate in repetitive lower body activity (running), or activity which requires sudden or high impact maneuvers (basketball, tennis, soccer)?
  • You are age 19 to 40 (with a gender bias toward women)
  • You suffer from poor ankle mobility

STEP 1 Assessment

Signs and Symptoms of shin splints
  • Usually along the inside of the shin bone (lower third)
  • Initial Pain usually comes on slowly over time
  • Not usually painful upon weight bearing (walking, standing) but may become painful upon more strenuous activity
Seek medical attention if experience any of the following:
  • Your limb is swollen or hot
  • Your pain occurs suddenly or is severe
  • There is muscle weakness, pins and needles sensation etcetera
  • Tender to touch or upon normal weight bearing activity or movement (standing, walking)

STEP 2 Treat the Pain / STEP 3 Prevent Shin Splints

Have patience, rehab may take a week in very mild cases or several weeks in more severe cases. Cure and Prevention are virtually identical.
General Actions to alleviate pain:
Rest – rest doesn’t equal no activity. Modify your activity (reduce, non-weight bearing activity etc). Cross Train - Consider adding swimming to your activities especially in severe cases of shin splints. Bring down the intensity of all lower body focused workouts.

Ice, Ice Baby – Religiously ice your shins after your workout

Compress and Elevate - try this as a combo if you have minor swelling due to shin splints.

Massage – seek a provider who specializes in sport massage therapy, Swedish massage is too general and non-specific for your needs. A sport’s massage therapist has been trained in a variety of orthopedic issues and is your best ally. Tap into their expertise regarding self-massage  and stretching for between treatment use!
Prevention tip: massage therapy is an excellent way to identify muscular imbalances, improve flexibility and speed your recovery. 

Specific Action Identify your unique cause of shin splint pain
  • Have you suddenly increased the duration, intensity, or frequency of your workout? 
Prevention tip: In the running world the rule of thumb is don’t increase your goals more than 10% per week.
  • Are you biomechanically challenged?: inflexible ankles, over-pronation (ankle rolls inward), rigid arches, flat feet, too long a stride, muscular imbalances etcetera. 
 Prevention tip: see link to flexibility test
- find a massage therapist to help increase flexibility
- find a personal trainer to strengthen weak muscles
- Are you a runner? Join a running club such as the New York Road Runner's Club for coaching and camaraderie.

Prevention tip: a calf compression sleeve worn during your activity may eliminate or reduce mild discomfort
  • Is your footwear appropriate and in good shape? You wouldn’t dance in football cleats, nor would you wear super old running shoes.
Prevention tip: Replace running shoes every 300- 500 miles.

Move Happy! - Denise Williams
Licensed Massage Therapist



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