How are shin splints treated?

If you have shin splints, you should perform a combination of flexibility and strengthening techniques to help your body heal and prevent further injury. Begin by foam rolling your calves and IT-band. Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that can help relax tight muscles before you stretch them. Hold the tender spots for 30 seconds to allow your muscle time to relax and release the knots that are causing tension in the muscle. After you have completed the foam rolling, statically stretch your calves and hip flexor complex. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds so that your muscles have time to elongate. Next, perform strengthening exercises for the foot, ankle, and hip. Single-leg calf raises will help strengthen the muscles that support your foot and ankle. Also, you can perform resisted dorsiflexion which will strengthen the muscles in the front of your shin that help control your foot and ankle. Lastly, perform a single-leg balance exercise to strengthen the muscles of the entire leg. When performing any single-leg exercise, ensure that you keep the arch of your foot lifted while performing the exercise. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each of these exercises.
Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Shin splints are either in the front of the shin, or they can also be in the inside of the shin - behind the ankle. They are typically due to excessive eccentric loading on the anterior tibialis (front shin muscle) or the posterior tibialis (inside/medial shin). Ice and massage of the irritable area can help maintain the inflammation and integrity of the tissue. But you should also have someone analyze your gait mechanics as you may have a high or flat arch, or a tight ankle - that causes increased stress to the shins. Also lack of hip and pelvic stability from above, especially when running - can cause increase loading along the shins.
To help shin splints go away:
  1. Rest
  2. Ice
  3. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  4. Flexibility-Foam rolling, static and dynamic stretching
  5. Exercises: swimming, bicycling, strengthening the anterior tibialis through resisted dorsiflexion and single-leg balance exercises.
Shin splints are best treated through rest. When shin splints are first felt, the pain should subside once activity is ceased. Without rest, the pain can become constant during everyday activities. Shin splints can also be treated by ice. This includes ice bags or ice packs over the inner lower leg for 20 minutes minimum post-activity and up to three times daily. Immersing the lower leg in a cold ice bath or whirlpool can also be helpful.

Ice massage is also helpful. To do ice massage, freeze a paper or Styrofoam cup full of water. Once frozen, remove a half inch of material from the top of the cup to expose the ice. Using long strokes or counterclockwise strokes with moderate pressure, massage the affected area for at least 20 minutes. (This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern University Athletic Training Education Program)
Fred C. Redfern, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Shin splints are treated by rest, stretching and gradual increase in activity, says Fred Redfern, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he says orthotic inserts can help treat the condition.

Continue Learning about Shin Splints

What strengthening exercises should I do to prevent shin splints?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
The one of the muscles you would want to strengthen is the anterior tibialis. This muscle runs down ...
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You can treat shin splint pain by icing the area and taking anti-inflammatory medication, says Fred ...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.