Doctors can usually make a diagnosis by discussing the patient’s medical history and carrying out a physical examination. X-rays might be taken to rule out other issues that have similar symptoms.
Medical conditions that have similar symptoms to shin splints include:
- Reduced blood flow in the lower leg (more common in smokers).
- Leg muscle bulging out of place (muscle hernia).
- Swelling of muscles causing nerve compression (compartment syndrome).
- Nerve problems in the lower back (radiculopathy).
- Stress fractures – small cracks in the tibia.
- Tendinitis – inflamed tendons.
- Effort-induced venous thrombosis – a blood clot caused by exertion.
- Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome – muscles and tendons compress a specific artery.
The following tips might help reduce the chances of shin splints developing:
- Lessen impact: consider cross-training with lower impact sports like walking or biking. Choose soft surfaces over hard if possible. Begin any new activities slowly and gradually build up the intensity.
- Wear correct footwear: wearing the right shoes for the job is important. For runners, shoes should be replaced every 300–500 miles.
- Use arch supports (orthotics): these can be helpful, especially for individuals with flat arches.
- Strengthen the area: try toe raises to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg – slowly rise onto tiptoes and back again, repeating ten times.
In the most part, shin splints can be treated with simple home remedies. Remedies include:
- Rest and recuperation: switch to lower impact activities such as swimming while the condition heals.
- Place ice packs wrapped in towels on the affected area for 15 minutes every few hours until symptoms subside.
- Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium can help ease the pain.
- Gently stretch the Achilles’ tendon.
Once the pain has subsided, exercise can be resumed, but it must be built up gradually to prevent a recurrence. If the pain resumes, it is best to stop the activity immediately and see a doctor or physical therapist to develop a more fine-tuned treatment approach.