Last week, we discussed the causes and symptoms of medial tibial stress syndrome. This week, we will continue to explore the “runner’s bane” that is shin splints.
When we get acute pain from exercise, usually, the best treatments are not only the least expensive, but normally, they are all you will ever need to recover.
In the vast majority of cases, non-surgical treatments will be the most effective ones for shin pain. These treatments include:
Rest. Because shin splints are typically caused by overuse, standard treatment includes several weeks of rest from the activity that caused the pain. Lower impact types of aerobic activity can be substituted during your recovery, such as swimming, using a stationary bike, or an elliptical trainer.
Ice. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
NSAIDS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen reduce pain and swelling.
Compression. Wearing an elastic compression bandage may prevent additional swelling.
Flexibility exercises. Stretching your lower leg muscles may make your shins feel better.
Supportive shoes. Wearing shoes with good cushioning during daily activities will help reduce stress in your shins.
Orthotics. People who have flat feet or recurrent problems with shin splints may benefit from orthotics. Shoe inserts can help align and stabilize your foot and ankle, taking stress off of your lower leg. Orthotics can be custom-made for your foot, or purchased “off the shelf.”
Return to exercise. Shin splints usually resolve with rest and the simple treatments described above. Before returning to exercise, you should be pain-free for at least 2 weeks. Keep in mind that when you return to exercise, it must be at a lower level of intensity. You should not be exercising as often as you did before, or for the same length of time.
Be sure to warm up and stretch thoroughly before you exercise. Increase training slowly. If you start to feel the same pain, stop exercising immediately. Use a cold pack and rest for a day or two. Return to training again at a lower level of intensity. Increase training even more slowly than before.
Despite our best efforts, in rare cases, the condition may not respond to non-surgical techniques. In that case, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Very few people need surgery for shin splints. Surgery has been done in very severe cases that do not respond to nonsurgical treatment. It is not clear how effective surgery is, however.
Next week, we will explore methods of prevention of shin splints.
And as always: If you are experiencing shin pain after exercise, don’t delay; go see the professionals at Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana where you will receive one-on-one care from an experienced physical therapist!