Most people know when they have them, but few people including doctors seem to know what they are. Most experts prefer the terms tendinitis or periostitis, but even those terms don’t really describe the condition. Shinsplints can be a variety of things. Some say they are the beginning of stress fractures, or a muscle irritation, or the irritation of the tendon that attaches the muscle to the bone. The problem is treating them goes back to the problem of indentifying exactly what they are.

This much we do know, unyielding surfaces can produce shinsplints in an instant, that goes for people who exercise on concrete as well as those who walk on it.  Other culprits include faulty posture, poor shoes, faleen arches, insufficient warm up,  poor running mechanics, poor walking mechanics, overtraining and so forth, they aren’t hard to get.

Symptoms can be vague and often confused with those of a stress fracture. But shinsplints typically include pain in the shin of one or both legs. Pain and aching will be felt in the front of the leg after activity, although it may occur during activity as the condition progresses. These remedies are designed to help keep the shinsplints from progressing and some of the things can help prevent a recurrence.

Start with the ground – look at the surface, if you’re walking, dancing, play basketball, whatever on hard ground you need to change that. If the surface is hard, do only low impact things, or high quality foam mats. Choose grass or dirt before asphalt and choose asphalt before concrete.

Look at the shoes – If you can change the surface or that’s not the problem look to the shoes. Look at the arch support, the shock absorption in the sole and through the arch, and make sure they fit you right.

Choose shoes often – For instance, if a runner puts in 25 miles a week they should have new shoes every 60-90 days, less mileage, new shoes every 4-6 months. In aerobics, tennis, or basketball, if you participate twice a week, new shoes 2 or 3 times a year. If you are faithful and participate 4 times a week, new shoes almost every 60 days

Put it on RICE – as soon as you notice a shinsplint, follow the rules of rice: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation for 20-3- minutes. Don’t underestimate the power of ice! Keep your icing routine simple, prop the leg up, wrap it with an Ace bandage, and place the ice pack on it for 20-30 minutes

Contrast – A variation on the RICE treatment is the contrast bath, which seems especially effective for pain on the inner leg.  With this method, alternate 1 minute of ice with 1 minute of heat. Do this before any activity that can cause shinsplint pain, and continue it for at least 12 minutes

Stretch – Stretching the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles is an excellent preventive measure for shinsplints. If you are wearing 2 inch heels or taller you’re not stretching either of those things. Stretching helps because shortened calf muscles tend to throw more weight and stress forward to the shins. So place your hands on a wall, extend one leg behind the other, and press the back heel slowly to the floor. Do this 20 times and repeat with the other leg

Tendons – Keep both feet flat on the ground about 6 inches apart. Then bend your ankles and knees forward while keeping your back straight. Go to the point of tightness and hold for 30 seconds. You should feel it really stretching down in the lower part of the calf, repeat 10 times

Master Massage – For shinsplints in the front of the leg, you want to massage the area right near the edge of the shin, not directly on it, if you work right on the bone, it just seems to make the inflammation worse. Sit on the floor with one knee bent and the foot flat on the ground. Start by lightly stroking both sides of the bone using the palmss of your hands, gliding them back and forth from knee to ankle. Repeat this several times. The wrap your hands around the calf and using the tips of your fingers, stroke deeply on each side of the bone from ankle to knee. Cover the area, using as much pressure as possible.

Correct faulty feet – Flat feet or very high arches can sometimes cause shinsplints. If you have flat feet, the muscle on the inside of your calf has to work harder and gets fatigued quicker, making the bone take more of a pounding. If you’re flat footed, you may need additional shock absorbing material or arch support in your shoes. Inserts are available at sporting goods stores, but it might be best to see a podiatrist before adding inserts. Pain on the outside of the lower leg is sometimes associated with very high arches, that requires a lot of stretching exercises as well as strengthening the muscles and maybe adding orthotics

Build muscle, reduce pain – Shinsplint pain can sometimes be prevented by strengthening the muscles surrounding the shin. These muscles help decelerate the foot and reduce shock whenever you walk or run. Help strengthen them by doing the following:

Try riding a bike with toe clips attached. Concentrate on pulling up with the muscles in front of the shin every time you pedal

If you don’t ride a bike, walking around on your heels does much the same things, forcing you to tighten and pull up with the muscles around the shin each time you take a step

If you’re seeking a conditioner that’s a bit more strenuous, try this; sit on the edge of a table that’s high enough to keep your feet from touching the ground. Place a sock filled with coins over the foot, or make a 5 pound wieght from an old paint can by filling it with gravel, place this over the foot with a shoe on so the wire doesn’t hurt. Flex the foot upward at the ankle, then relax, then flex the foot upward again. Repeat this as many times as you can, tightening the shin muscles as you pull the foot up

When isn’t it a shinsplint? With a stress fracture, you’re going to have pinpoint pain, about the size of a dime or quarter. 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.

And as always, when in doubt, go to the doctor