Preventing and Treating Shin Splints
Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, refers to pain in the front of the lower leg (shin) that can be caused by exercising. Runners and dancers commonly complain of shin splints, and they can be caused by putting too much stress on the legs through:
- Running without good technique
- Jumping on hard surfaces
- Suddenly starting a new exercise routine without building up a tolerance
Shin splints aren’t serious but they can be uncomfortable and cause exercise and training to become unpleasant. In this article, we’ll cover what causes shin splints, and how can they be treated, as well as some ways to prevent them.
We cover other common sports injuries and ailments in our blog:
- How to Treat Ankle Sprains
- How to Treat Groin Strains
- How to Treat a Pulled Hamstring
- How to Spot and Treat an ACL Tear
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Preventing shin splints is a much easier way to combat them than treatment. If you’re an athlete looking for how to prevent shin splints when running you’re doing the best thing to protect yourself.
Awareness of what to do to prevent shin splints means that you’ll naturally incorporate good practices into your training and avoid pain, discomfort, and setbacks associated with shin splints. Here’s how to prevent shin splints in running and other sports.
1. Gradually increase exercise intensity and rest often
Shin splints are a type of overuse injury. One of the most common reasons that people develop shin splints is because they are forcing their legs to exercise more than they can handle too quickly. If you are a new runner and have shin splints it may be because you didn’t gradually build up your running routine.
Prevent shin splints by starting slow, and gradually building up your running distance over time. Pay attention to how your lower legs feel during training. Don’t attempt to ‘run through’ any pain, this is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If your legs begin to feel uncomfortable stop for a rest.
2. Choose the right footwear and check your form
Running in a way that puts undue stress on the shins, or wearing footwear that doesn’t provide enough support can change how the impact is absorbed by the body and lead to shin splints.
Your running shoes should give sufficient arch support and cushion the sole to help your foot land properly and absorb shock. Most sports shop assistants will be able to recommend a good pair of running shoes to prevent shin splints running and some can even examine your gait, the shape of your feet, and the wear on your current shoes to determine the best solution for you.
Other than investing in a new pair of running shoes you could opt for a pair of arch supports that can be inserted into your shoes to give you the necessary comfort.
Running form is also important to reduce the risk of shin splints. Mid-foot running focuses on landing the feet in the optimal way to protect the feet and legs. Heel striking or toe running can result in shin splints and other ailments.
Practice drills of mid-foot running to help get your technique right. Your trainer or physiotherapist may be able to observe your running technique and make recommendations, or you could have someone film you running and examine it yourself.
It’s also important to warm up to prevent shin splints and stretch after a session. Giving your calves a massage following a workout can help the muscles to recover, or you could have a professional sports massage.
3. Exercise on softer ground
Shin splints are caused by the impact of your feet on the ground and this impact is increased when you run on hard surfaces like concrete. Reduce the chance of shin splints by opting for softer running surfaces like grass or dirt tracks. Even practising running on a shock-absorbing treadmill in the gym is a good way to build up your running tolerance while avoiding hard ground.
4. Add strength training activities
Shin splints are sometimes caused by weak anterior tibialis muscles which are located at the front side of the lower leg. Consider resistance exercises and stretches to prevent shin splints when running.
Building up the muscles throughout the whole of your legs will make it easier for your body to propel and balance you when running and take pressure off your shins. Keep reading to find some good strength exercises to combat shin splints.
Start off your session with calf stretches that help you limber up the high-risk area. Ending your session with stretches is equally important.
Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints
Building up your calf muscles can help to strengthen the area where shin splints can occur. But these aren’t just exercises to help prevent shin splints, they can also soothe the area when you are suffering from shin splints and help your body recover.
Here are some popular stretching exercises to prevent shin splints:
- Seated calf stretch with a resistance band
- Toe walking and heel walking
- Toe raises to prevent shin splints
- Standing dorsiflexion stretch
- Straight and bent-knee calf wall stretches
How to Treat Shin Splints
If you experience shin splints there are some things you can do to reduce the pain and discomfort you experience and help your body recover. Most of the time you will only need to know how to treat shin splints at home as professional advice isn’t usually required.
However, if you experience a lot of pain or if your symptoms don’t start to get better after a week, make an appointment with your GP. They will be able to advise you on the best way to treat shin splints or determine that something else is the cause of your symptoms.
1. Use an Ice Pack
Icing the affected area can soothe pain and reduce any swelling or inflammation, something that contributes to pain, stiffness, and discomfort. Use an ice pack for up to 20 minutes every two or three hours for the first few days.
Make sure you have an instant ice pack in your first aid kit if you’re a coach or trainer. It doesn’t require actual ice and only needs to be shaken and squeezed to activate its cooling effect.
Our Sterfreeze Instant Ice Pack isn’t only good for shin splints, it can be used to soothe other common injuries like ankle sprains, groin strains, pulled muscles, and head injuries.
2. Take Over the Counter Painkillers
Use OTC medicine to help ease the pain of your shin splints such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Be sure you check the packaging to confirm it is safe for you to take the medicine or consult your doctor for a recommendation.
3. Gentle Exercise
We often hear people ask how to treat shin splints while running. Treating shin splints without stopping running is possible, but it’s much more beneficial to let your body rest and recover before returning to activities.
Treating shin splints physical therapy is beneficial, but it’s important to start with very light, gentle exercise to gradually strengthen the area and help your body get used to the activity again. Many runners find swimming and yoga help when recovering from shin splints.
Including some daily stretches to treat shin splints will help move progress along. Refer to the recommended stretches above in this article or consult a physiotherapist for a routine that suits you.
Are you prepared for a first aid emergency?
Shin splints aren’t usually harmful and although uncomfortable, won’t affect your game long-term. But there’s always a chance of some real damage being done when it comes to sports. The best way to make sure you’re always ready for an emergency is with the right supplies and the proper know-how.
We engineered our sports first aid kit on a foundation of real feedback from real athletes, sports players, coaches, sports rehab professionals and national governing bodies so that you have everything you need for the most common sports injuries.
Read our blog post Essential Parts of Any Sports First Aid Kit to find out more about its contents.
Most national governing bodies of sports require or at least strongly recommend that one person per club or team is qualified in giving basic first aid. Check out our guide on first aid courses for sports to find out the requirements in your field.
But attending a one-time first aid course isn’t often enough, and being prepared to help an injured athlete get back to their sport relies on continued professional development and up to date knowledge of sports rehabilitation. That’s why we invite anyone with an interest or responsibility to help with physical rehab to join our Injury Rehab Network.
Find out about upcoming events in the IRN and have the chance to learn from and network with industry experts in sports rehabilitation.
Please enter your details into the form below along with any questions or comments and a member of our team will be happy to provide you with more information:
Get in Touch
- Treatment and Prevention of Cauliflower Ear
- How to Treat Common Rugby Injuries
- Rugby First Aid Courses: Everything you Need to Know
- The Definitive Rugby First Aid Kit Contents List
- Taping Your Wrists for Football: Why and How
- Effective Prevention of Injuries in Football
- How to Treat Common Football Injuries
- Rugby First Aid Kits: Complete Guidance for Rugby Union and Rugby League
- Knee Injuries in Professional Football and Elite Sport – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Steve Kemp – Lateral Ankle Injuries in Professional Football – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Michael Blackie BDS – Oral Health Impact on Performance in Elite Sport
- The Best Football First Aid Courses Recommended by Experts – Courses your coaches should be taking and why
- Football First Aid Kit Contents List – What should yours contain to keep your football players safe?
- Boxing First Aid Kit Contents List
- Preventing and Treating Shin Splints
- 8 Essential Safety Tips for Boxing
- How to Apply Boxing Hand and Wrist Wraps
- Essential Boxing Safety Equipment
- How to Spot and Treat an ACL Tear
- How to Treat a Pulled Hamstring
- How to Treat a Groin Strain
- How to Treat a Sprained Ankle
- Essential Parts of Any Sports First Aid Kit
- Recommended First Aid Courses for Sport
- Essential First Aid Skills for Cyclists
- Cycling First Aid Kit Contents List
- Cycling First Aid Kits – A Complete Guide
- Mike Healy – Pitchside Care CPD – Injury Rehab Network Event
- David Fevre – Pitch Side Injuries: No Time to be Injured – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Diane Ryding – Physiotherapy in an Elite Football Academy: Beyond injuries – Injury Rehab Network Event
- The Strain of Christmas – A Busy Time for Physio’s
- Dr Imtiaz Ahmad: Football Club Doctor – An Evolving Role – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Diane Ryding & David Fevre at the Injury Rehab Network
- GB Maxibasketball and Sterosport Partnership Announcement
- Sterosport and FMPA Partnership Announcement
- 2022 Injury Rehab Network Events
- Dr Ian Horsley, Team GB Deputy Chief Physio, at the Injury Rehab Network
- Sign Up: Sports Taping and Kinesiology Taping Online Courses
- Dr Barry Monk – Sunshine and Skin Cancer – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Steve Miller – Calf Injury Rehabilitation – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Angela Jackson – Managing The Overloaded Younger Athlete – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Shoulder Injuries in Sport – Expert Q&A Injury Rehab Network Event
- Professor Bill Ribbans – The Athletic Ankle. When do Lax Ligaments Need Surgery? – Injury Rehab Network
- Diane Ryding – Tackling Paediatric Injuries – Injury Rehab Network
- What are the most common sports injuries? Top Ten (Part 2)
- What are the most common sports injuries? Top Ten (Part 1)
- The Athletes Shoulder – The Surgeons Perspective – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Dr Claire Minshull – Getting Efficacious About Rehab and Conditioning – Injury Rehab Network Event
- How to Conduct a Risk Assessment for the Return to Sport
- Return to sport: A complete guide on what to expect
- Types of Sports Tape and their Uses
- Gary Lewin, Expert Football Physiotherapist – Rehabilitation on the Road in Elite Sport – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Josh Quigley at the Injury Rehab Network
- 2021 Injury Rehab Network Events
- The Importance of the Partnership Between a Manager and a Physio
- Paul Lubas – The Pitch-Side Paramedic
- Returning to Work as a Sports Therapist After Coronavirus
- Hyde United FC and Sterosport Partnership Announcement
- Chorley FC and Sterosport Partnership Announcement
- British American Football and Sterosport Partnership Announcement
- Dave Fevre – Expert Chartered Sports Physiotherapist – Injury Rehab Network Event
- Does Kinesiology Tape Work?
- Here To Help When You Return To Sport
- Mike James at the Injury Rehab Network
- Hannah Dines Shares Details About Her Paralympic Cycling Programme
- Hannah Dines – Hills Thrills and No Chills on the Road to Tokyo 2020
- Dave Fevre at the Injury Rehab Network
- Hannah Dines – When an Athlete Switches Off
- Hannah Dines – Life Balance – How Friends Are Key to Elite Success
- University of Salford Sports Taping Courses
- Hannah Dines – Love Island, Laundry, Admin and Repeat – A Day in the Life of a Paralympian
- Injured? Here’s How Nutrition Can Help
- Sterosport – A New Approach to Sports Injuries
- Hannah Dines – Terminating Injury
- Injury Rehab Network NW Gets off to a Flying Start