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Understanding and treating shin splints

Coping with shin splints is a painful experience. The injury can make running, jumping and even walking unbearable. Read on to learn more about how to prevent and treat your shin splints.

Dealing with shin splints
Shin splints

What are shin splints?

Medicinenet describes shin splints as pain at the front of the lower leg, around the shin bone. Inflammation causes pain that can seem dull at first and then develop into a strong, sharp pain that makes many forms of physical activity impossible.

What causes them?

The injury is most commonly caused by overuse, training on rough or hard terrain, poor footwear or the biological design of a person’s legs and feet. They are frequently seen in runners or aggressive walkers, particularly when these individuals significantly increase the intensity of their training.

How can they be treated?

Usually a period of relative rest is recommended to appease both the injury and the person coping with it. This means activities such as running and fast walking, which hurt the inflamed area, are not permitted, but low-impact activities, such as swimming or stationary cycling, are allowed. The area should be iced as frequently as possible, and anti-inflammatory medication is often recommended. If the issue was caused by wearing old or inadequate footwear, new workout shoes should be purchased. A variety of lower leg stretches can be performed to promote rehabilitation. In addition, the affected area can be taped to allow for proper healing.

When can a person get back to training?

For many individuals, the forced rest is even more upsetting than the injury itself. Unfortunately because the injury is typically caused by overuse, running through the pain is rarely recommended. It is often advised that the individual take close to two weeks off to allow the pain to go away almost completely. When returning to running or walking, distance and intensity should be kept to 50 per cent of what was performed pre-injury. That level can be increased over a period of several weeks.

How to prevent shin splints from reoccuring

To prevent shin splints from returning, always increase distance and intensity slowly, and make sure to give your legs regular time off to rest. It is also wise to find running shoes that are ideal for your leg structure and physical needs.

For more information on diagnosing and treating shin splints, consult your doctor, physiotherapist or sport injury professional.

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