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Shin Splints - Why They Happen and How to Stop Them

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

How to Prevent Shin Splints

Shin splints stretches prepare the muscles for the impending stress of exercise. Performing shin splints stretches before running or gymnastics helps prevent shin splints. Runners changing their routine to replace periodic running days with days in the gym reduce the stress on their shins. Shin splints can be caused by weak core muscles, where side muscles are toned but the main load bearing muscles are not developed.

Shin splints stretches help tone these muscles, but targeted exercises may be necessary. Consult a physical trainer for advice on how to build up weakened core muscles. Shin splints occur when there is repeated stress to muscles unable to take the load. Adding variety to the exercise routine reduces stress on the medial tibial.

The odds of developing shin splints can be reduced with adequate rest at night and between activities. Having flat feet or having had clubbed feet increases the risk of shin splints. Corrective shoe inserts, especially for athletes, can reduce the risk of their occurrence. Shock absorbing running shoes literally reduce the impact for runners.

Shin splints can progress to stress fractures of the bones in the leg if the stress is not reduced. Taking calcium supplements reduce the odds of shin splints progressing to stress fractures.

Conditions like clubbed feet raise the odds of shin splits later in life.

Conditions like clubbed feet raise the odds of shin splits later in life.

What to Do When Shin Splints Strike

Shin splints are treated with the classic round of ice, pain relievers and rest. If the problem occurs frequently, listen to your body and change your routine.

For severe cases of shin splits, anti-inflammatory drugs along with pain relievers may be given. Stop your workout routine for the shins while your body heals. For example, you’ll need to stop running but you can still work out your upper body and back. Or switch from running to swimming as your body heals. Use lower stress workouts like a walking or an elliptical trainer instead of running to stay in shape while your joints recover.

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For children with shin splints, look at your child's activity patterns. Do you need to put the trampoline away for a month? Do you need to curtail your child's soccer practice? Is a love of jump rope or pogo sticks to blame?

Repetitive activities that put stress on joints like jumping in a bounce house can trigger shin splint pain.

Repetitive activities that put stress on joints like jumping in a bounce house can trigger shin splint pain.

What Should You Do If These Treatments for Shin Splints Do Not Work?

In some cases, shin splints are caused by a biochemical imbalance or a sign of a larger problem. If altering the workout routine and performing shin splints stretches before every workout doesn’t help, see a doctor for blood work to determine if there is an underlying chemical imbalance.

When preventative self-help and recovery are not enough, physical therapy regimens can rebuild weakened and over-stressed muscles. These regimens must be closely followed for the tissue damage with reoccur or worsen. Surgery is a rarely required but viable solution when the damage is too great to heal otherwise.

If the pain doesn’t go away, it may be because the muscles are not stressed but the muscles have stressed to the point of stress fractures in the bones themselves. Treatments for stress fractures are similar to that of any other broken bone, with immobilization with wraps or casts. However, when preventative actions are taken early on and medical care sought when symptoms don’t resolve will prevent this dire situation.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


onebite on November 10, 2011:

Thank you so much for this!! I get shin splints so bad sometimes that I can't hardly stand to walk. Very useful information

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