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What Are The Causes of Shin Splints? Treatments.

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Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common condition that causes pain and inflammation along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia), often during physical activity.

Medial tibial stress syndrome is typically caused by repetitive stress on the shin bone and surrounding muscles, which can occur from activities such as running, jumping, or dancing. Factors that can contribute to the development of shin splints include overuse, improper footwear, poor running technique, and anatomical factors such as flat feet or high arches.

The pain may be sharp or dull and may become more intense while exercising, especially during high-impact activities. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for shin splints.

What Are The Symptoms Of Shin Splints?

The most common symptom of shin splints is pain or discomfort in the lower leg, particularly along the inner edge of the tibia. Other symptoms may include tenderness, lower leg or ankle swelling, or weakness.

The lower leg may feel stiff or tight, especially during or after physical activity. Some people with shin splints may also experience numbness or tingling in the lower leg or foot.

The symptoms of the condition can vary in severity and may come and go over time. In some cases, the pain may only occur during or after physical activity, while in other cases it may be present even at rest.

Shin splints and stress fractures have many symptoms in common, making it difficult to differentiate between the two conditions without proper medical evaluation. Stress fractures and shin splints are both overuse injuries that can cause pain in the lower leg, but they are different conditions with distinct causes and treatments.

Stress fractures are small cracks or breaks in the bones of the lower leg, typically the tibia or fibula. They can occur when the bones are subjected to repetitive stress, such as from high-impact activities like running or jumping. Shin splints, on the other hand, are a type of soft tissue injury that affects the muscles, tendons, and connective tissue in the lower leg.

Who Is At Risk for Shin Splints?

The condition occurs when the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue in the lower leg become overworked, leading to small tears and inflammation in the area. Causes of shin splints vary, but some factors contributing to the development of the condition include overuse, poor footwear, flat feet or high arches, muscle imbalances or weakness, and running or jumping on hard surfaces.

Although anyone can develop these, some risk factors set some individuals aside. Professions that involve prolonged standing, walking, or running on hard surfaces, such as healthcare workers, military personnel, athletes, and dancers, are at higher risk of developing shin splints.

A 2015 study comprising 577 professional ballerinas and dancers showed a rate of 1.24 lower limb injuries per 1000 dance hours. Even with a high caliber of technical training, dancers are at an increased injury rate, so it is essential to know your treatment options.

People who work in jobs that require a lot of walking or standing, such as retail workers or servers, may also be at increased risk. These activities can stress the lower leg muscles and bones, leading to the development of the condition over time.

Regarding gender, women are more likely than men to develop shin splints, particularly younger women who participate in high-impact activities. This may be due to differences in bone density, body mechanics, and hormonal factors.

Another factor contributing to the prevalence of shin splints in women is the preferred shoe style. High heels and sandals are not likely to fit properly or provide needed support to the arches of the feet.

Age is also a factor that can affect the likelihood of developing them. Shin splints are more common in younger people, particularly those who are still growing and developing. The bones and muscles are not yet fully mature, making them more susceptible to injury.

Shin Splints While Standing

Treatments For Shin Splints

Shin splints, that dull ache down your shins, can put a damper on your workout routine. But fear not, fellow fitness enthusiasts! Several effective treatments can get you back on track and pain-free. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Rest and Recovery: This might sound counterintuitive, but taking a break from activities that aggravate shin splints is crucial. Opt for low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or elliptical training. This allows your shins time to heal while still maintaining some fitness level.

RICE Therapy: This acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel to your shins for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Compression sleeves or bandages can also help reduce swelling. Elevating your legs above your heart when resting promotes better circulation and reduces inflammation.

Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation. However, consult your doctor before taking any medication, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.

Stretching and Strengthening: Once the initial pain subsides, incorporate gentle calf stretches and strengthening exercises for your shins and ankles into your routine. This improves flexibility and muscle strength, reducing stress on the shins and preventing future flare-ups. A physical therapist can design a personalized program to address your specific needs.

Supportive Footwear: Invest in well-fitting shoes with good arch support and cushioning. Consider replacing worn-out shoes that no longer provide adequate support. If you have flat feet or other biomechanical issues, custom orthotics from a podiatrist can significantly improve alignment and reduce strain on your shins.

By incorporating these treatments consistently, you can effectively manage shin splints and get back to enjoying your workouts pain-free. Remember, early intervention is key, so don't hesitate to consult a healthcare professional if your shin splints persist or worsen.

Stretches And Exercises For Shin Splints

Shin splints can leave you wincing with each step. But don't despair! By incorporating targeted stretches and exercises into your routine, you can loosen tight muscles, strengthen your shins, and get back to pain-free movement. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Stretching for Shin Splints:

  • Calf Stretch: This classic stretch targets the calf muscle, which directly connects to your shins. Stand facing a wall with your hands shoulder-width apart for support. Step one leg back with your heel flat on the floor and your front knee slightly bent. Lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your back calf. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

  • Seated Shin Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of one foot and gently pull your toes towards you, keeping your leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Exercises for Shin Splints:

  • Alphabet Raises: This simple exercise strengthens your calf muscles and improves ankle stability. Stand on one leg with your other leg slightly bent behind you for balance. Raise your foot up and slowly trace the alphabet with your toes in the air. Repeat 5 times, then switch legs.

  • Towel Toe Curls: Sit on the floor with a towel spread out in front of you. Place your toes at the edge of the towel and scrunch your toes to pull the towel towards you. Repeat 10-15 times.

Remember, consistency is key! Aim to perform these stretches and exercises several times a day, especially after any activity that might aggravate your shin splints. It's important to listen to your body and avoid pushing through pain. If you experience any sharp or worsening pain, stop the exercise and consult a healthcare professional.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics

Shin splints, that nagging pain along your shins, can sideline you from even the most basic activities. While rest and proper stretching are crucial for recovery, addressing the underlying causes of shin splints is essential for long-term relief. This is where Bilt Labs custom orthotics come in, offering a personalized solution to combat shin splints at their source.

Traditional, off-the-shelf insoles often fail to address the unique biomechanics of your feet. Bilt Labs takes a different approach. Their custom orthotics are crafted from precise molds of your feet, ensuring a perfect fit that cradles and supports your arches exactly where they need it most. This targeted support plays a vital role in preventing excessive strain on your shins.

Shin splints often arise from improper foot alignment, particularly overpronation – when your foot rolls inward excessively with each step. Bilt Labs orthotics can help correct this imbalance by providing arch support and realigning your foot during weight-bearing activities. This reduces the stress placed on the muscles and tissues in your shins, leading to a significant decrease in shin splint pain.

Beyond immediate pain relief, Bilt Labs custom orthotics offer preventive benefits. The personalized design helps maintain proper biomechanics with each step, reducing the risk of future shin splints from developing. Whether you're a casual walker or a dedicated athlete, Bilt Labs offers a variety of orthotic options to suit your activity level. Their high-quality materials and meticulous construction ensure long-lasting support, making them a worthwhile investment in your overall foot health and pain-free movement.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics


Shin splints are a common annoyance for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. By understanding the causes, you can take steps to prevent them from hindering your workouts. Remember, listening to your body and gradually increasing exercise intensity are key. If you do experience shin splint pain, prioritize rest, ice, and proper stretching to promote healing. With a little care and attention, you can get back to enjoying your favorite activities pain-free.

For those who are prone to shin splints, consulting a healthcare professional or athletic trainer can be beneficial. They can assess your individual risk factors and recommend specific exercises or footwear choices to help you prevent future flare-ups. Don't let shin splints sideline you – with the right knowledge and approach, you can keep your legs strong and your workouts on track. Take our free quiz today to find out which orthotic type is best for your feet.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health. If you have any questions about your health or are experiencing any medical problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention based on the information provided in this article.