Shin Splint Injury

Overview

Shin splints are a general term for pain that occurs in the front of the lower legs after a period of inactivity following exercise. The real term for this injury is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).

While the injury doesn't require surgery, the sports medicine experts at the FHCH Sports Medicine Program can offer a treatment strategy that will reduce the pain and lessen the chance that you will get shin splints in the future. They can also make sure that the pain is due to shin splints and not some other condition that may have broader implications.

 

Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints are most common with runners, aerobic dances and people serving in the military. They develop after sudden changes in activity, such as running longer distances than normal or increasing the number of days you exercise each week. Flat feet are another factor that can contribute to the increased stress on the lower muscles that cause shin splints.


Shin Splint Symptoms

You will usually experience a dull, aching pain under or around the front of the kneecap where it connects to the lower end of the femur. The pain is particularly noticeable when you're walking up or down stairs, kneeling, squatting or sitting with a bent knee for an extended period of time.

 

Treatment

Rest is the initial treatment. Several weeks of rest from the activity causing the shin splints should be sufficient enough to allow the area to heal. During this time, other activities can be substituted. Doctors at the FHCH Sports Medicine Program may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications or the use of cold packs and mild compression to reduce pain and swelling. Stretching exercises may also help. Once several weeks have passed, you can try to resume your exercise. Start slowly at first and if you feel pain, stop exercising immediately. Use a cold pack and rest for another day or two and then try again, this time starting at a lower level of intensity than before. If there is no pain, you can increase your activity level slowly.

As with many knee injuries, the R.I.C.E. method can also help control pain and swelling.

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation

  • Rest. Take a break from the activity that caused the injury. Your doctor may recommend that you use crutches to avoid putting weight on your leg.
  • Ice. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Compression. To prevent additional swelling and blood loss, wear an elastic compression bandage.
  • Elevation. To reduce swelling, recline when you rest, and put your leg up higher than your heart.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling.

Surgery is not needed for shin splints.

If you have questions about shin splints or want to make an appointment with us, please contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators and they'll be happy to help you.