What causes bumpy shin splints

5+ ways to get rid of shin splints

Getty Image The term "chin splints" describes pain that occurs in the front of your legs and on the chin bone. They become the pain in the front of the leg between the knee and ankle

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Understand shin splints

The term "shin splints" describes pain that occurs in the front of your leg and in the shin. You will notice the pain in the front of the leg between the knee and ankle.

Shin splints are a common overuse injury. They can appear from running or other high impact activities for long periods of time or without enough stretching. They are common in:

  • runner
  • military recruits
  • dancer
  • Athletes who play sports such as tennis

With rest and treatments like ice and stretching, shin splints can heal on their own. Continuing physical activity or ignoring the symptoms of shin splints can result in more severe injury.

Read on to learn how to remove shin splints and how to prevent this injury from recurring.

RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation)

RICE is a common approach to home injury management and can help heal your shin splints. It is:

  • Rest. Rest from any activity that causes pain, swelling, or discomfort. Active rest is usually good for shin splints, but you should see a doctor if you think you have a more severe injury. Try low impact activities like swimming until your pain subsides.
  • Ice. Place ice packs on your shins for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Wrap them in a towel and don't put ice directly on your skin. Ice four to eight times a day for several days until the pain in the shin splint subsides.
  • Compression. Wear a calf compression cuff to reduce inflammation around your shin.
  • Elevation. If you freeze your shins, try lifting them up on a pillow or chair to further reduce inflammation.

You may still be able to do some exercise while resting your shins.

If you are a runner you may be able to keep running safely but want to decrease the distance and frequency. You should also decrease the running intensity by about 50 percentAvoid hills, uneven surfaces, and hard surfaces like cement. If you have access to one, running on a treadmill can be a safe option.

Low-impact exercises such as swimming, running in the pool, or cycling until your pain subsides can also help.

5 stretches for shin splints

Stretching the calf muscle and surrounding muscles can help relieve pain in the shin splint. If you suspect you may have shin splints, do the following three stretches every day or every other day. Combine stretching with a RICE protocol (see below).

Precautions:

  • Do not do these stretches if they are painful.
  • Avoid these stretches if you suspect you have a stress fracture or a more severe injury. These types of injuries need to be treated by a doctor.

1. Seated tibia stretch

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This stretch targets the muscles in the back of the lower leg to relieve pain in the shinbone area.

  1. Start in a kneeling position and gently sit down so your heels are just below your glutes and your knees are in front of you.
  2. Put your hands on the floor behind you and lean back slightly.
  3. Gently press your heels with your body weight to feel the stretch.
  4. Lift your knees slightly off the floor to increase the pressure.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds. Let go and repeat up to 3 times.

2. Stretching the soleus muscles

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This stretch targets the muscles in the back of your calf.

  1. Stand in front of a wall or a closed door.
  2. Put both hands on the wall.
  3. Step one foot slightly behind the other.
  4. Squat down slowly so that you bend both knees to feel the stretch. Keep both heels on the floor at all times.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds. Let go and repeat up to 3 times.
  6. If necessary, switch to the other leg in front.

3. Gastrocnemius muscle stretching

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Stretching your calf muscles can help relieve pain in the shin splint.

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy wall or closed door that you can push against.
  2. Put both hands on the wall.
  3. Step back one foot (the one you are straightening) and keep that leg straight. Bend your front knee. Keep both feet flat on the floor.
  4. Lean your torso forward to feel the stretch in your calf muscle. You may need to move your straight leg back slightly to feel a greater stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds and relax. Repeat three times.
  6. If desired, switch legs.

4. Calf raises

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Calf raises can help strengthen the calf muscles, which can relieve some pain.

  1. Stand on a step or step stool with the footballs on the stool and the back half of it floating.
  2. Slowly raise yourself onto your toes and then let yourself go, stretching your foot and calf muscles as your heels lower. Hold down for 10–20 seconds.
  3. Return to the start
  4. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

5. Foam rollers

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A foam roller can reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the shin splint. Here is one technique for "rolling out" your shins:

  1. Start on your hands and knees with the foam roller on the floor under your chest.
  2. Pull your right knee towards your face and carefully place your right shin on the foam roller.
  3. Slowly roll your shin up and down, keeping your left leg firmly on the floor to control the pressure.
  4. After a few rolls or finding a painful area, you may need to stop, bend and straighten your ankle before you can continue.
  5. If desired, switch legs.

Should you be using pain medication?

You can try an over the counter pain reliever (OTC) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen sodium (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce discomfort with shin splints.

Pain relievers are not a substitute for shin splint treatment. Be sure to do some stretching, foam rolling, and RICE until your pain subsides.

How to prevent shin splints

You may be able to prevent or reduce your risk of shin splints by following these steps:

  • Wear well-fitting and suitable sports shoes. Wearing appropriate shoes for your sport can help avoid shin splints. Shoes that provide good support for tennis may not provide proper support for running.
  • If you are a runner, have your step observed in a running shop. The staff can help you find a shoe that fits your foot structure and step. If you have high arches or flat feet, you may also need inserts.
  • Replace your shoes often. If you are a runner, be sure to buy new shoes every 350 to 500 miles.
  • Gradually build up your fitness level. Slowly increase your running or physical activity every week. This can help strengthen and loosen up your muscles.
  • Cross the train. By varying your movements, shin splints can be prevented. Try to end your normal routine with swimming, biking, or yoga a few times a week.
  • Try shock absorbing insoles. These can lessen the impact on your shin during exercise.

What causes shin splints?

Shin splints can appear when you overload the muscle and bone tissues in the leg with repetitive activity. They often appear after a change in the frequency of physical activity. For example, running too many kilometers too fast without your body getting used to the training.

They can also be caused by a change in the duration or intensity of physical activity. Switching the surface you exercise on can also result in shin splints. For example, you can get shin braces if you are a runner and switch from running on a soft surface to running on pavement or concrete, or if you are a tennis player moving from a grass or clay court to a hard court.

If you have any of the following, you are at greater risk of developing shin splints:

  • You are a runner or a novice to long distance running.
  • You recently increased the intensity or frequency of your exercise.
  • You run on uneven terrain, concrete or hills.
  • You are in military training.
  • Your feet are flat.
  • You have high arches.

Take that away

Shin splint pain can go away on its own if you follow a RICE protocol and stretch yourself daily.

To avoid injuring yourself again, return to your normal exercise routine slowly and gradually. For example, if you are a runner, walk first. When you can walk painlessly for a few days, start jogging slowly.

Always ice after your workout and stretch before and after.

See a doctor if your shin splint pain doesn't go away, or if you suspect a more severe injury. The doctor may do an exam and also do an x-ray to determine the cause and recommend treatment.