Shin splints is a general term for different types of leg pain. Posterior shin splints (back of the lower leg) — typically occur with sudden changes in activity that cause irritation in tissue covering the bone. Anterior (front of the lower leg) shin splints are often linked with exercise; but the cause isn’t completely understood. Common in runners and military service members, shin splints result in swollen, angry muscles and a dull ache that makes exercise very uncomfortable.
Stress fractures and foot problems can also contribute to leg pain and shin splints. A medical evaluation is recommended for persistent shin splints, because a long-term solution depends on the underlying cause. Reducing high-impact activities like jumping and running, getting plenty of rest, and physical therapy are common treatments. Stretching exercises for the muscles that control the ankle help alleviate shin splint pain — as long as they’re done within a pain-free range of motion.
Prevent shin splints by wearing comfortable, supportive athletic shoes; by warming up with 5-10 minutes of low-level cardiovascular activity and stretching the lower legs before each workout; and by avoiding exercise on hard surfaces like sidewalks.