[Photo: Dominika Roseclay]
Shin splints are a common overuse injury caused by repeated stress on the shin bone, muscles, and connective tissues in the lower leg. If you've had splints, you don't need to be told that they can be painful and difficult to treat.
Pain from shin splints are usually felt on the inner lower part of the leg or front of the shin bone and can range from mild to severe. It can start as come-and-go discomfort with activity and progress to a steady and persistent pain even after the activity has ended. To diagnose splints, a doctor will examine the lower leg, ankle, and foot and may order X-rays and MRI scans to rule out a stress fracture.
As for treatment, rest and ice are important to give the muscles and bones time to heal. Vitamin D3 supplements may help, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can ease pain and swelling. When you do become active again, start slowly and increase your activities gradually. Wearing supportive shoes when running or hiking, ideally with orthotic inserts when exercising – and replace them every 300 miles. Also, consider avoid sudden increases in activity and stretch your muscles before exercising to warm them up. Avoid surfaces that are hard, uneven, or hilly when running. If you run often, consider adding low-impact exercises to your routine.