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Shin Splints

Pain felt in the front of your lower leg is often called “shin splints.” One common cause of this pain is tendinitis—inflammation of tendons (tough, cordlike bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone). When the tendons of the muscles near the shinbone become inflamed, the pain is felt along the shin. Shin splints often affect athletes and runners, and are commonly due to overuse.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

Symptoms of shin splints often start as a dull ache that gets worse over time. Resting your legs often relieves the symptoms. Later, the pain may become continuous with almost any activity.

Your Evaluation

Your doctor will ask you questions about your activities and your health history. Be sure to tell your doctor about possible injuries. There are no tests for shin splints, but your doctor may want to do some tests to rule out a stress fracture in your shinbone. These tests may include an x-ray, bone scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test.

Man lying on couch, reading, with legs supported by pillows. Ice pack is on front of lower legs. Treating Shin Splints

Follow these and any other instructions you are given.

  • Rest: Cut down on running and high-impact sports, or avoid them completely to allow your legs to rest and the injury to heal.

  • Ice: Put ice on the painful areas. Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas. Put a thin cloth between the cold source and your skin. Ice for 15 minutes every 3 hours.

  • Medications: Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, as directed by your doctor.

Preventing Shin Splints

To help prevent shin splints in the future:

  • Warm up before you run. Perform gentle stretching exercises.

  • Be careful not to overtrain.

  • Avoid running on hard surfaces.

Be sure you are using running shoes with good support and cushioned soles.

 

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