Everything You Need to Know about Treating Shin Splints

Shin Splints

It’s been said time and again, “No pain, no gain.” That phrase holds particularly true when it comes to running because there are a number of different aches and pains that arise when you’re training for a distance run or even short sprints. While that pain is often a signal that your muscles are developing and getting stronger, there is one type of pain that really doesn’t signal any gain to your running ability – shin pain.

If there is one thing that runners do agree about, it is the fact that shin splints, or discomfort radiating up one or both of the bones of the shins, are the worst of any running related injuries. Only about 20 percent of running athletes actually deal with shin pain related to splints; however, if you are in among the 20 percent, you know the condition is no joke. The pain is generally caused by overuse. Depending on the severity of the condition, runners may experience issues ranging from a minor stress injury involving inflammation of the bone to a more significant issue such as a fracture or crack in the bone.

Being that runners deal with shin pain in vastly different ways, it can be hard to locate the cause of the issue. In fact, “shin splints” is a term used to describe pain that is felt in the bone itself, in the muscle, and even in the knee. This complexity of pain also makes it hard to find an effective solution for the issue.

The Cause of Shin Pain

It is important that all runners understand the two common types of pain: muscle and bone.

The vast majority, roughly 90 percent, or shin splints are actually bone-related, arising from stress to the shinbone. If this condition is not properly treated, than the injury may eventually develop into a crack, which will only cause additional pain and require an extended time to recover.

The remaining percentage of pain is derived from muscle-related concerns. With pain in the muscle, the muscle in the shin becomes inflamed, and the tendons surrounding it become taut and cause pain.

While runners are most commonly affected by shin splints, any athletes who exercise on hard surfaces are at risk for developing the condition. In reality, though, there are three primary factors that contribute to splints. The primary factor that causes issues involves the actual mechanics of your skeletal and muscular system. If your feet tend to rotate inward as you are running or if you over-stride, you actually put added stress on your tibia with each step. Another factor that contributes to issues is increasing the distance you are running too quickly. And, if you have a low bone density, you are at more of a risk for discomfort.

Best Methods to Avoid Discomfort

Like with most conditions, the ultimate way to mediate pain from shin splints is to actually avoid getting them altogether. In most cases, once an athlete seeks treatment, the majority of the injury has already been established.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to hear your body and prevent the condition altogether. To do so, avoid increasing your mileage by 10 percent in a given week, add strengthening exercises for your feet to your regimen, incorporate overall strength training into your routine, and work on your ankle mobility.

If you tend to develop shin splints anyway, then use these methods to treat the issue.

1. Take a Break

Rest is one of the best things you can do for treating shin discomfort. Take some time off from your training routine so the pain can remedy itself.

2. Consider New Shoes or Insoles

If your shoes aren’t fitting correctly, the pain will result. Consider new shoes or at the very least more absorbent insoles.

3. Try Icing the Site

If the issue is an issue with the bone, ice will help alleviate the pain. Apply ice and elevate your legs and feet for 20 minutes or more two times a day.

4. Roll It Out

Foam rolling is another great way to reduce pain from shin splints. Focus the rolling on your calf muscles for the biggest benefit.

5. Try a Supplement

To increase the density of your bones, try taking a calcium or vitamin D supplement.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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