Shin splints are injuries to the outside of the lower leg (below the knee.) Most often they are experienced by runners and athletes but no one is really immune to the problem. Damage and inflammation to a 4-6 inch area of the shine can cause extreme pain and many trained athletes are even forced to stop their workout due to the pain. Shin splints can be the result of overuse of the muscles in the leg or they can be due to an injury caused by a misstep or other mishap.
It used to be that there were two different approaches to shin split repair. One was complete rest, which did not set well with most athletes. The other was “pushing through it” which often caused even more damage to the area. Today, there is a treatment routine that encompasses both rest and use. It is called the multifaceted relative rest approach. With this technique, an alternate workout is advised which may include pool exercises or the stationary bike, but not running. That way, there is still a cardiovascular work out but without undue stress to the shin. Periods of resting and applying ice to the area are also advised. This helps reduce the inflammation caused by shin splints. Most often some type of pain reliever is given. Usually it is an anti-inflammatory OTC drug such as Motrin or Aleve. Careful stretching of the calf and frontal leg muscles can also help alleviate the pain. These stretching exercises should be done on a schedule provided by your doctor or physical therapist but are normally done twice a day. It is important to alternate the exercise and rest times so your leg can properly heal. Running is only advised after proper healing has been achieved. Starting to run again too soon only exacerbates the problem.
It has been found that shoes are often the problem when dealing with shin splints. The arch support is either too high (which is usually the case,) or too low. Especially for athletes, shoes should be chosen carefully or you may be causing more harm than good. Injuries also more often occur on rough terrains while running. Complete recovery time for shin splints can be 3-6 weeks and sometimes more. A special exercise routine will be allowed to gradually increase use of the muscles in that area and should be strictly adhered to. Re-injury to the area can increase the total healing time drastically.
It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendation when treating shin splints. Since the injuries involve tendons and muscles in the leg, they must be given proper time to heal before returning to a strenuous workout. If shin splints are experienced and you are not an athlete, you should still follow the advice of a doctor. Proper exercise and rest are needed to strengthen the area again after an injury. Shine splints are extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient, but they are treatable.