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Monday, June 14, 2010

Shin Splints Part I

Shin Splints (Part I): What are they? What is the basic treatment?


More Inspirations from Italy: this time Monterrosso al Mare (see photo above)

Shin Splints literally means pain somewhere between below the knee joint and above the ankle joint. There are a lot of structures that can produce pain in that area, so the treatments range from simple to complex. Mostly, shin splints is an overuse of one group of muscles/tendons that start (originate) in the leg, and end up (insert) into part of the foot. Each one of these muscle/tendon has various functions around various joints. It can be one of these muscle functions that has been forced to work in an overuse fashion that produces pain. Podiatrists, physical therapists, orthopedists, and physiatrists (rehab specialists) tend to be the most qualified to recognize the exact muscle/tendon involved when treatment is stalling.

Shin splints is so common, and normally responds so well to basic treatment, that most clinicians do not get too involved in its complexities. The basic treatment of shin splints involves:

  1. Reduce activity to pain free levels for at least one week.
  2. Ice the involved area for 30 minutes 3x/day.
  3. Change your athletic shoes if they may be worn down.
  4. Minimize your speed workouts and hill workouts.
  5. Consider if levels of Calcium and Vitamin D may be low.
  6. Attempt 3 to 4 days/week alternative exercises as long as it is pain free (i.e. cycling, elliptical, walking, swimming, court sports, etc.)
  7. Stretch the achilles tendon 2 positional (knee straight and knee bent) for 1 minute each 3x/day.
  8. Experiment with an ankle brace or ankle taping if it is painful to walk.
  9. Wear tie-on supportive athletic shoes full time while the shin is healing (although you may experiment with clogs as an alternative).
  10. Attempt pain free muscle strengthening of the muscle group involved. More on this in a later post.


As your symptoms get better, gradually increase your activity back to normal levels (normally 20% increase per week if you were still able to exercise, and 10% per week if you had to shut it all down). A walk/run program may be appropriate (see separate post).

The next part of this topic in the next blog post will talk about the various muscle groups in the leg, and the various functions they perform in these amazing bodies of ours. Talk to you soon.

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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.