Shin splints are an inflammation of the muscle attachments along the tibia (shin bone). They can be extremely painful and often resistant to treatment. Dr. Hale and Dr. Huppin are experts at treating shin splints and we have a very strict protocol, based on the best evidence in the medical literature, for treatment of shin splints. Most patients start to see improvement within a few weeks.
Our goal when treating shin splints is to eliminate your pain as fast as possible and then prevent the pain from returning.
Shin splints usually do not clear up on their own so make an appointment today to see us in our Seattle clinic so that we can get you back to full activity as soon as possible.
The primary cause of shin splints is excessive rolling in of the foot (over-pronation). This puts extreme stress on the muscles that run from the leg and into the foot. It is critical when treating this problem to decrease the stress on these muscles. Other causes of shin splints are listed below.
Our treatment plan for shin splints may include:
- Custom orthotics to reduce tension on the muscle causing the pain. The orthotics will be prescribed to reduce tension on the muscle causing the problem. Read more about why our orthotics tend to work better.
- Recommendations on specific shoes
- Special strengthening exercises
- Physical therapy
- If injury does not respond as expected, a bone scan, diagnostic ultrasound or X-ray may be necessary to check for a stress fracture.
While waiting for your appointment, begin the following shin splint home treatment:
- Stop running, especially in the case of severe pain, if pain is mild, then reduce training load and intensity, and avoid downhill running.
- Take a course (5 – 7 days) of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(ibuprofen/naproxen)
- Apply ice to the shin area – for 10 minutes every 2 hours, in order to reduce the inflammation
- Self-massage to the muscle only (along the inside of the shin)
- Stretching of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Hold for 30 secs. Relax slowly. Repeat to opposite side. Repeat stretch 2 – 3 times per day.
Symptoms of Shin Splints:
- Pain or tenderness along the inside of the shin, usually about halfway down the shin. Pain and tenderness may extend to the knee
- Pain on palpation of the shin
- Pain is most severe at the start of a run, but may disappear during a run, as the muscles loosen up. This is different to a stress fracture, where there is pain during weight bearing activities (walking, stair-climbing)
Shin Spints Causes:
- Overpronation (feet rotate too far inward on impact)
- Excessive running on hard surfaces such as concrete
- Inflexible calf muscles and tight Achilles tendons – place more stress on to the muscle attachments
- Incorrect or worn shoes
- Overtraining, or a rapid increase in training load or intensity
- Beginner runners are more susceptible to this problem for a variety of reasons, but most commonly due to the fact that the leg muscles have not been stressed in such a way before they started running.
Other Names for Shin Splints:
- Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
- Tibial Fasciitis
Self Treatment Hints for Shin Splint Pain
Our goal for treating shin splints is to
- Gentle compression of the involved muscles
- Use arch support and stable shoes to decrease tension on the two muscles that contribute to shin splint pain
- Decrease inflammation
- Prevent reoccurrence
We suggest you following the instructions below religiously for four weeks for the best chance at curing your shin splints. Most of our patients see improvement in shin splint pain with this plan. If you don’t have improvement in three weeks, see a podiatrist who specializes in sports medicine.
For the first two weeks wear a Cho-Pat Shin Splint Compression Sleeve at all times. For the next two weeks wear the Cho Pat Compression Sleeve for athletic activities. The Shin Splint Compression Sleeve works by providing gentle compression forces while firmly supporting the lower leg muscles and soft tissue. The sleeve also tends to stimulate circulation and maintain warmth which controls fluid build-up.
Use an arch support in your shoes. This will act to decrease painful joint motion by preventing arch collapse. An arch support with a higher arch and some rigidity will work best. These OTC arch supports will not work as well as a quality custom orthotic, but will help. The best one that we have found for foot arthritis is the Powerstep Full Length Arch Support.
- During summer, avoid sandals or flip-flops that do not have arch support. Instead, we recommend the Wave Flip-flop Sandal – available here. Our patients love this flip flop.
Use Orthogel Cold Therapy Roll-on as needed to reduce pain
- Ice the painful areas for 10 minutes each evening.
- Use a stable shoe. Wear this at all times when weight-bearing.
If these home treatment for shin pain do not relieve your shin splints within 2 weeks, make an appointment to see us in our Seattle foot and ankle clinic.