Nov 9, 2023How to prevent shin splints
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are not uncommon, especially among runners, dancers, and individuals who suddenly intensify their training or change their workout.
“This also happens in new military recruits. A rapid increase in activity overworks the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. With enough repeated stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the muscles to that bone, a person will experience tenderness, soreness, or pain along the inside of their shinbone. There may be swelling, too,” says Beau Sasser, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery and medical director of the Southeast Georgia Health System Sports Medicine program.
Preventing and Treating a Case of the Splints
Athletes and weekend warriors may not be able to avoid this annoying condition, but Dr. Sasser says certain habits increase or decrease the likelihood of shin splints.
“If you run on hard or uneven surfaces, consider changing your routine. Individuals with high arches or flat feet are more prone to shin splints, so they need to be properly fitted in quality footwear, arch supports, and shock-absorbing insoles. Avid runners should replace their shoes every 350 to 500 miles.”
Try these other prevention pointers to lower your risk:
- Practice moderation. Performing or running at high levels for extended periods may stress the shinbone.
- Reduce impact. Alternate intense training with lower-impact sports such as walking, cycling, or swimming. Start new activities slowly, even if you’re used to performing at a higher level.
- Strength train. Strong legs are better equipped to handle the demands of high-impact sports. Strength training also stabilizes and strengthens your core, hips, and ankles.
- Evaluate your moves. Ask your coach, trainer, or fellow athlete to video your technique. This may reveal habits that cause problems. From there, you can tweak your technique to lower your risk.
Several common-sense steps will reduce the pain of shin splints.
“I recommend rest, applying ice to the affected area, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce inflammation. Also, modify your workouts to prevent shin splints and build strength and flexibility,” says Dr. Sasser.
If you’re tempted to ignore this minor malady and play through the pain, Dr. Sasser cautions, “You could end up with chronic pain or a stress fracture.”