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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A shin splint is damage to the muscles, tendon, and tissues of your shin. The damage leads to pain, tenderness, or swelling when you flex your toes toward your head.
- Rest: Rest will help decrease pain and swelling.
- Activity: Avoid activities that cause pain. Swim, ride a bicycle, or do water aerobics. These activities will not put stress on your shins.
- Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your shin for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. You can also do an ice massage. Fill a paper cup with water and freeze it to make a large ice cube. Peel the paper away and put the ice cube on your injured shin. Rub in circles using medium pressure for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day.
- Elevate: Raise your shin above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep your shin elevated comfortably.
- Wear proper shoes and shoe inserts: Choose the best shoes for your foot type and activity or exercise. Replace your shoes when they get worn out. Shoe inserts help support your heel or arch and decrease stress on your shins. These may be rubber, silicone, or felt pads. Shoe inserts also help prevent overpronation.
- NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. You can buy NSAIDs without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Prevent another shin splint:
- Start to exercise slowly: For example, if you run, you may need to run shorter times and distances at first. Gradually increase your exercise as directed. Stop if you have pain.
- Stretch and warm up before and after you exercise: This will help loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your shins.
- Choose a different sport: Biking, swimming, and walking are exercises that put less stress on your shins.
- Change where you exercise: Choose flat, even surfaces. Avoid concrete or asphalt. Exercise on softer surfaces such as grass, dirt, or rubber tracks.
- Do shin splint exercises: These are exercises that help strengthen the muscles in your legs. Ask for more information about shin splint exercises.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- Your pain and swelling increase as you exercise.
- You have pain at rest.
- You have a fever.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You fall and have severe shin pain.
- Your shin is red, warm, tender, and swollen.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.