What happens if I go back to training before my shin splints are better?
You risk making your condition worse if you restart your training before you have fully recovered.
Resting is very important for the treatment of shin splints. This is so your bones have time to repair and heal fully. You risk injuring the bone or putting stress on other areas of your shin if you restart training before your shins are fully recovered.
Shin splints is a general term used to describe pain along your shin bone (tibia) that usually develops or gets worse when you exercise. It's a common sporting injury, particularly if you’re a runner or dancer.
Your shin bone (tibia) is at the front of your lower leg. It’s the largest of the bones that run from your knee to your ankle.
Shin splints is a general term used to describe any condition that causes pain and tenderness down your shin. This pain may be down the middle of your shin or just inside the inner edge of your shin. The pain is caused by your muscles, tendons or bone tissue around your shin becoming injured.
Shin splints usually develop when you’re exercising. It can start if you’ve recently begun a new fitness regime or if you’ve been doing a lot of vigorous activity. Shin splints often get worse the longer you exercise. The condition usually develops in people who do repetitive activities and sports that put a lot of stress on the lower legs. For example, running, jumping or dancing.
If you have shin splints, the main symptoms are tenderness and an aching pain along the front of your lower leg. The pain usually happens when you’re exercising and may become worse the longer you’re exercising. Some people find that the pain stops when they stop exercising, only to come back a few hours later. If your shin splints are severe, you may have pain when you’re resting. Sometimes you may also have mild swelling around the area that’s painful.
There are a number of different causes of shin splints. The main ones are listed below.
All of these conditions can develop when you put too much stress and strain on your shin bone. This happens when there’s repeated impact on the bone when you’re playing sports or doing activities where you’re running and jumping. It’s possible to have a stress fracture and compartment syndrome at the same time.
You're more at risk of developing shin splints if:
If you have shin pain, see your GP or a physiotherapist (a health professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility). You may also be referred to a doctor who specialises in sport and exercise medicine, but often, this is only available privately.
You’ll be asked about your symptoms and your doctor or physiotherapist will examine you. They may also ask you about your medical history. There’s usually a clear link between pain in your shin and a sport or activity that you do.
Your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend that you have a scan or X-ray to look at your shin in detail. These tests are often done to rule out other conditions that may affect your shins, such as large stress fractures. The tests you may have are listed below.
There are many things that you can do yourself to treat shin splints. The main ones are listed below.
Your physiotherapist can develop a training programme for you to gradually increase your level of activity and help you return to your usual sports. They may use a range of different treatments to help your recovery, including massage and stretching exercises.
Most of the time, surgery isn’t required for shin splints. However, if your shin splints are caused by compartment syndrome and your pain is severe, your doctor may suggest an operation called a fasciotomy. This releases the pressure on the muscles in your lower leg.
Occasionally, a stress fracture may need an operation to help it heal.
Talk to your physiotherapist or a specialist for more information.
You can help reduce your risk of developing shin splints by doing the following.
Reviewed by Alice Rossiter, Bupa Health Information Team, August 2014.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
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