The Best Ways To Treat And Pre­vent Shin Splints

Mys­te­ri­ous, but all too com­mon. Here are the facts.

Runner's World South Africa - - CONTENTS - BY R.W. SCIOLO

IT’S THE BANE of run­ners both new and ad­vanced: lower-leg pain that flares up when you start pound­ing the pave­ment. In many cases, the cul­prit is shin splints.

Also known as me­dial tib­ial stress syn­drome (MTSS), shin splints are thought to oc­cur when in­flam­ma­tion de­vel­ops where the mus­cles in­sert on the bone, ex­plains Dr Cordelia Carter, direc­tor of the Women’s Sports Medicine Cen­tre at New York Univer­sity. That’s called pe­rios­ti­tis, and the re­sult­ing in­flam­ma­tion is re­spon­si­ble for the nag­ging pain you feel.

Prop­erly iden­ti­fy­ing your pain as shin splints is im­por­tant. “‘Shin splints’ is the very fuzzy term we ap­ply to ‘Ow, my leg hurts,’” says Carter. “It’s a catch-all; but the pain is not al­ways caused by shin splints.”

If the pain in­creases, per­sists after your work­out, or in­ter­feres with ev­ery­day life, you should see a pro to make sure it’s not se­ri­ous. But if not, there are DIY treat­ments that can help.


When you’re deal­ing with acute pain, take a break from stren­u­ous ac­tiv­ity to give the

in­flam­ma­tion time to go down. “If you feel a lit­tle bet­ter, and you try to go back [too soon], you’re set­ting your­self back to square one,” Carter says.

Ic­ing your leg is the first course of ac­tion. Wrap a frozen bag of peas in a dish­cloth and place it on the aching area. It con­forms to your leg bet­ter than an ice pack, and will re­duce the in­flam­ma­tion and swelling. Tak­ing non-steroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs (NSAIDs) can help, too – just make sure you’re not ex­ceed­ing the pre­scribed dosage, and take them with food to avoid an upset stom­ach, Carter says.

While you’re rest­ing from run­ning, take time to foam-roll and stretch, fo­cus­ing on your Achilles ten­don. Try the heel-drop stretch: stand with one foot on the edge of a step and lower your heel down. Re­turn to start­ing po­si­tion and then re­peat on the other leg.


Still aching? It’s time to put more ef­fort into heal­ing. Swelling tends to oc­cur along with in­flam­ma­tion, even if you can’t see it. Com­pres­sion socks can de­crease swelling, thus re­liev­ing some of the pain.

An­other op­tion is over-the-counter shoe inserts, which are usu­ally less stiff than cus­tom or­thotics. Inserts are par­tic­u­larly help­ful if you have flat feet, since over­prona­tion ends up stress­ing your mus­cles and ten­dons even more, putting you at greater risk of shin splints. “If you can neu­tralise that align­ment prob­lem, then you can po­ten­tially bal­ance the forces go­ing through your foot and an­kle as you run, which will hope­fully de­crease your chances of de­vel­op­ing an overuse in­jury such as shin splints,” Carter says.


If you have a chronic case of shin splints, kinesiology tape may help to re­lieve the throb­bing. Ac­cord­ing to a study in the Jour­nal of Sports Medicine and Phys­i­cal Fit­ness, peo­ple who wore ki­ne­sio tape for just one week ex­pe­ri­enced a greater re­duc­tion in pain than those who used stan­dard or­thotics.

“Ki­ne­sio tape lifts the su­per­fi­cial tis­sues, which pro­motes heal­ing by mov­ing waste prod­ucts out of the area, and stim­u­lates nerve end­ings that re­lax the mus­cle,” says Cameron Yuen, se­nior phys­i­cal ther­a­pist at Be­spoke Treat­ments.

Mea­sure the amount you need by sit­ting with your leg in front of you, foot flexed. Hold the tape 5cm be­neath the top of your big toe, and un­roll un­til it hits just be­low the out­side of your knee. Cut the tape there. With­out stretch­ing the tape, peel off 5cm of ad­he­sive and stick it just be­low the out­side of your knee. Then peel off the re­main­ing pa­per, and stretch the tape to stick just be­neath the base of your big toe, with the foot still flexed. Point your toe, and lightly press the tape to your shin un­til the tape is flat. Cut ad­di­tional strips the length and width of your shin, and stick them lat­er­ally over your pain points.

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