Shin splints are a shorter term for medial tibial stress syndrome. It refers to pain near the tibia bone, or shin, which is located in the front of the lower leg. This pain results from too heavy a workload on the tibia and the tissues around it.
A person with shin splints will notice sharp pain in the lower front part of his or her leg. There can also be mild to moderate swelling. Should the swelling or pain increase more than usual to a severely high level, the person should go to a doctor.
But if the syndrome is more of an annoyance and does not require a doctor or orthopedist’s care, there are a few things that can be done to alleviate the pain, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Rest…but don’t become inactive. Avoid high-impact activities that aggravate shin pain, but try low-impact physical activities like swimming, yoga or biking.
Ice. Wrap ice packs in a towel and place on the affected shin(s) for 15 minutes at a time no more than eight times a day for a week.
Wrap. If ceasing participation in a sport is not an option, compression bandages or athletic tape can be placed around the shin to relieve pain. This is only for serious athletes that cannot afford rest (gymnasts, professional runners, etc.)
Take a pain reliever. Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Tylenol and aspirin can all relieve some of the pain.
Talk to a doctor. Some people have more serious pain than others and may need more appropriate shoes or arch supports to cure and prevent future shin splints.
Athletes sometimes use this treatment, which is a more direct way to treat the pain:
Mash up a pain reliever. This is an old gymnast trick. Take a few tablets of an over-the-counter pain reliever and mash them up. Place them in a small amount of rubbing alcohol and apply directly to the shin(s) with a cotton ball. The pain reliever is going directly to the affected area (unlike when a person takes it orally) and the rubbing alcohol creates better absorption.
Shin splints can be prevented from reoccuring by listening to one’s body. At the first twinge of shin pain, stop and take a break. Additionally, cross-training with low-impact activities can give shins a needed break. Finally, adding strength training can really help. Toe raises and leg presses are an effective way to strengthen shins.