At first, you may brush it off as fatigue or pushing your run or walk too far. But eventually, the recurring, throbbing pain in your shins gets your full attention. By then, you may have a full-blown case of shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome.
Stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bones inflames the tissues, causing pain. The front of the shin aches or throbs, especially after exercise. These symptoms are common in runners, hikers, dancers and military recruits.
Shin splints or possibly stress fractures may cause pain in the front of the lower leg. These fractures need to be ruled out with X-rays or bone scans.
Most cases of shin splints can be treated with rest, ice and proper footwear.
Take a break from your walking or running workout to give your shins time to heal. You can remain active by exercising with non-weight-bearing exercise, like swimming or biking, if it doesn't cause pain.
Icing the shins can decrease pain. This is typically done for 20 minutes four times a day for three days, or until the pain is gone. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, including ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), will ease pain and decrease inflammation. If you have high blood pressure or kidney disease, consult your health care professional before taking these medications.
Be sure your footwear fits properly, provides adequate support and is appropriate for your activity. For example, running shoes typically have a more cushioned heel than walking shoes. Runners should replace their shoes after 350–400 miles.
When your shins are pain-free, you can return to your regular activities. But start slowly. Gradually increase the intensity or distance to avoid reinjuring your shins.
If your issues with shin splints continue or recur repeatedly, consult with an orthopedic or sports training specialist.