Shin Splints (cont.)

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How are shin splints diagnosed?

The diagnosis of shin splints is usually made during physical examination. It depends upon a careful review of the patient's history and a focused physical exam (on the examination of the shins and legs where local tenderness is noted).

Specialized (and costly) tests (for example, bone scans) are generally only necessary if the diagnosis is unclear. Radiology tests, such as X-rays, bone scan, or MRI scan, can be helpful in this setting to detect stress fracture of the tibia bone.

What is the treatment for shin splints?

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Previously, two different treatment management strategies were used: total rest or a "run through it" approach. The total rest was often an unacceptable option to the athlete. The run through it approach was even worse. It often led to worsening of the injury and of the symptoms.

Currently, a multifaceted approach of relative rest is successfully utilized to restore the athlete to a pain-free level of competition.

What is the multifaceted relative rest approach?

The following steps are part of the multifaceted approach:

  • Workouts such as stationary bicycling or pool running: These will allow maintenance of cardiovascular fitness.
  • Application of ice packs reduces inflammation.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve/Naprosyn), are also a central part of rehabilitation.
  • A 4-inch wide Ace bandage wrapped around the region also helps reduce discomfort.
  • Calf and anterior (front of) leg stretching and strengthening address the biomechanical problems discussed above and reduce pain.
  • Pay careful attention to selecting the correct running shoe based upon the foot type (flexible pronator vs. rigid supinator). This is extremely important. In selected cases, shoe inserts (orthotics) may be necessary.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises are done twice a day.
  • Run only when symptoms have generally resolved (often about two weeks) and with several restrictions:
    1. A level and soft terrain is best.
    2. Distance is limited to 50% of that tolerated preinjury.
    3. Intensity (pace) is similarly cut by one-half.
    4. Over a three- to six-week period, a gradual increase in distance is allowed.
    5. Only then can a gradual increase in pace be attempted.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2012

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Shin Splints - Length Symptoms Lasted Question: How long did the symptoms of your shin splints last? Was there anything in particular that helped with pain/symptom relief?
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Shin Splints - Effective Treatment Question: Are you prone to shin splints? If so, what treatment works well to relieve symptoms?

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