Shinsplints aren't hard to get.
Faulty posture, poor shoes, fallen arches, insufficient warmups, poor running mechanics, poor walking mechanics, and overtraining can lead to the telltale shin pain.
Shinsplints are one of the most common and disabling conditions in aerobics. Long-distance runners have probably suffered with them since the first road was paved.
Most people know when they have shinsplints, but very few—experts included—know what they are. Most doctors prefer the terms tendinitis, or periostitis, though they can't say for certain which of those terms, if either, actually describes the condition.
Some say shinsplints are the start of a stress fracture. Others contend they are a muscle irritation. Still others think they are an irritation of the tendon that attaches muscle to the bone.
The symptoms of shinsplints are often confused with those of stress fracture. But shinsplints typically include pain in the shin of one or both legs, though there may or may not be a specific area of tenderness. Pain and aching will be felt in the front of the leg after activity, although it may occur during activity as the condition progresses.
The remedies here are designed to help keep that shinsplint condition from progressing to the point of stress fracture and to let you continue your active lifestyle without causing undue harm. Let pain be your guide. If anything recommended here causes increased discomfort, don't do it.
Because some experts believe shinsplints may actually be stress fractures in an early stage, telling the difference between the two is sometimes tricky. Even so, shinsplints can become full-blown stress fractures with continued abuse, so seeing your doctor for an early diagnosis is crucial.
"With a stress fracture, you're going to have pinpoint pain, about the size of a dime or quarter," says trainer Marjorie Albohm. "If somebody asks you where it hurts, you'll be able to go right to it, put one or two fingers on it, and tell them exactly where it is. It'll be right on or around a bony area, and it's point-specific. A shinsplint will be an aching discomfort up and down the whole lower leg."
Marjorie Albohm is a certified athletic trainer and is president-elect of the National Athletic Trainers' Association. She served on the medical staffs for the 1980 Winter and 1996 Summer Olympics and the 1987 Pan American Games.
Gary M. Gordon, D.P.M., has a sports medicine practice in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where he specializes in podiatric medicine and foot surgery.
Rich Phaigh has taught more than 250 classes in advanced therapeutic technique in the United States and abroad. Phaigh has worked on the likes of running stars Alberto Salazar and Joan Samuelson.