Does this sound familiar? You go for a run on hilly terrain or you play basketball on a hard concrete court, and soon you notice that there's a dull ache along the inside of your shin.
Athletes and non-athletes alike can experience the pain of shin splints. Although the pain often eases as soon as you stop exercising, it can linger and eventually cause continuous pain.
These are 7 factors that can potentially trigger shin splints for athletes:
- Starting or intensifying a sport or training. Shin splints are common when someone is starting a new sport or training regimen as tissues respond to increased use.
- Wearing unsupportive shoes. Shoes that don't offer good support and cushioning—even some running shoes—can be a trigger.
- Running or playing sports on hard surfaces. This is especially true if you're making a lot of starts and stops, jumping, or running on a hard surface. This can also make you more susceptible to stress fractures.
- Running on hilly or uneven terrain. Activity that makes your legs and feet readjust frequently can increase the likelihood of shin splints.
- Having preexisting foot and ankle problems. These include flat feet, high arches, or hyperpronation, which is a gait problem that occurs when too much weight falls on the inside of the foot.
- Having poor running form. This can include your feet hitting the ground too forcefully at the heel.
- Having tight calf muscles. Tight calf muscles can put extra pressure on your shins.
Often, shin splints can be treated with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medications for a few days, and then you can resume activity.
If you experience shin splints on a regular basis, you may need to:
- Adjust your training schedule
- Invest in new shoes
- Use shin sleeves or shin wraps for extra support and compression
- Use shoe inserts if you've been diagnosed with flat feet, high arches, or hyperpronation
- Do stretching exercises if your calf muscles are tight
Also, your doctor or a physical therapist can assist you with evaluating your gait, teaching you helpful stretches or exercises, or administering additional treatments such as electrical stimulation or ultrasound.
If your shin splint pain is severe, sharp, or long-lasting, be sure to see your doctor to rule out other injuries, such as a tibial (shin bone) stress fracture.