Dec 28, 2023

Treatment for Shin Splints

Treatments for shin splints include home remedies, activity modification, medications, and physical therapy. In rare cases, a healthcare provider may recommend procedures such as prolotherapy (an injectable treatment) and extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) (a noninvasive treatment) for shin splints.

This article discusses common treatments for shin splints, as well as underlying issues that can be treated to help reduce the risk of the problem becoming chronic.

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Shin splints are an overuse injury that typically affects physically active people and are the most common injury experienced by runners. Athletes and people in the military also experience shin splints at higher rates than nonathletes and civilians.

Home remedies that help decrease the pain and inflammation of shin splints include:

Activity modifications are an essential part of the treatment for shin splints. This usually means you'll need to take a temporary break from the exercise causing your symptoms—or at least change your routine.

If you're a runner, this could mean decreasing your mileage, running on a softer surface, or alternating running with walking. You can substitute it with an alternative lower-impact exercise like cycling or swimming.

See a healthcare provider if your shin splints don't improve with home remedies and activity modifications. Shin splint symptoms can resemble more serious conditions, such as tibial stress fractures (small cracks in shin bones) or exertional compartment syndrome (muscle pain in an overused area).

These conditions can require more significant treatment. In severe cases, a healthcare provider may perform a fasciotomy, opening up the fascia to relieve leg pressure. Without surgery, permanent muscle damage can occur.

Over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol (acetaminophen) help you manage pain, while nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can decrease inflammation and pain caused by shin splints.

Examples of NSAIDs include:

In some cases, prescription medications might be needed.

Examples include:

A healthcare provider may suggest physical therapy to treat shin splints. Physical therapists use a variety of treatments to decrease pain and other symptoms caused by this condition.

These modalities can include:

Some physical therapists are trained to perform dry needling (inserting thin needles into a muscle), which can decrease pain and tightness in the muscles affected by shin splints.

In addition to treating your symptoms, a physical therapist can also help you figure out the underlying cause of your shin splints and address issues such as:

Prolotherapy—injection of a sugar called dextrose—is an intervention that can potentially help decrease symptoms of shin splints. However, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Shin splints can also be treated with extracorporeal shock wave therapy. This procedure delivers low-energy shock waves through a probe on the skin to increase blood flow to the injured tissues.

Shin splints cause pain and inflammation in the lower leg. These symptoms can be treated with home remedies, activity modifications, medications, and physical therapy. Other medical interventions, such as prolotherapy and extracorporeal shock wave therapy, might also be beneficial.

Shin splints can develop due to other problems, such as poor biomechanics, flat feet, muscle weakness or tightness, overtraining, and improper footwear. A healthcare provider, such as a physical therapist, can help determine the underlying cause of your shin splints and treat these issues to help prevent chronic problems.

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By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHTAubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.

Ice Add some support Stretch your muscles Wear compression socks or sleeves Try kinesiology tape