How to Treat Shin Splints

Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

Kalee wrote:

I have shin splints right now so I can’t run or bike or anything but lift weights while sitting and do core exercises… unless you can think of anything that I could do for cardio that wouldn’t require me to use my legs. What exercises [should I use] until my shin splints heal? Thanks!


If you haven’t managed to avoid shin splints, then it is obvious that you haven’t read and understood my article about How to Avoid Shins Splints, but first, if you haven’t already, you should take a couple minutes to understand What Are Shin Splints. Once you’ve become well versed on shin splints, you can now read about how heal or treat shin splints. Let’s get this problem under control so you can get back to training.

Shin Splints
How to Treat Shin Splints

How to Treat Shin Splints

First and foremost, you must find the cause of the injury and fix it. Whether the cause is footwear, overuse, flexibility, or misalignment, you must take steps to eliminate the cause of the injury or it will continue to plague you. Be sure to perform strength training exercises with the muscles of the lower leg to strengthen them.

How to Heal Muscle Related Shin Splints

Muscle related shin splints can be treated using RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Many people who suffer from shin splints use an ice massage four to eight times daily for 20 minutes to help recover. They cite about a 2 to 3 week recovery period in which you must avoid those exercises that may have caused the shin splints.

After recovery is complete, proper warm ups, stretching, and proactive ice massages can help to avoid future shin splints. Heat can be used before warm ups or when the injury begins to heal, but should not be used immediately when the injury occurs.

Here is a tip for icing your sore shins:

“Take a wax paper Dixie cup. Fill it up with water and stick in the freezer. When it is completely frozen, take it out and massage your sore shins using a rolling motion. As the ice melts you can peel back the cup and to expose more ice to massage your sore shins.”

How to Heal Bone Related Shin Splints

Bone related shin splints require lots of rest and recovery. The exercises that caused the injury must be completely avoided. Ice massages and heat may be used, but are not as important as complete rest. Wrapping the shins (compression) can be important when using non-impact or low-impact exercise, specifically during a training period in which you are actively recovering from the injury. It often takes 3 weeks to a month to recover from stress fractures, and sometimes longer to recover from full fractures.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs) may help decrease pain and inflammation. Anti-inflammatories like Asprin, Advil, and Aleve can be used according to the instructions on the package, but should not be overused or abused. Also remember that anti-inflammatories hide the pain, so do not resume exercising just because the pain has subsided.

Toe Flexes to Strengthen Your Shin Muscles

This exercise builds the anterior tibialis muscle on the front side of your lower leg. If you experience shin pain when walking or running, this is the muscle group that is complaining. It flexes the foot upwards and complains if you have not been walking or running very often and then try to leap into an intense exercise routine.

Use this exercise to develop strength in the anterior tibialis, which will help to prevent shin pain and shin splints.

Toe Flexes

  1. Stand on a step, but stand facing away with your heels on the step and your toes hanging off.
  2. Hold onto a railing or chair for balance.
  3. Flex your toes up towards your shins as far as you can.
  4. Hold the contraction for a second.
  5. Release and lower your toes.
  6. Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Standing Anterior Tibialis Shin Stretch

This stretch is for the anterior tibialis muscle on the front of your lower leg. Its action is to flex the foot upwards. This muscle mostly gets a workout in running, walking, and sports like tennis and basketball, which require a lot of short sprints and change-of-direction. This stretch is also called the “toe drag stretch”.

Use this stretch often when recovering from shin splints. It is important to stretch during the second half of your recovery phase, but not as much when you first suffer the injury.

Toe Drag Stretch

  1. Standing, you may want to use a hand on a wall or other support for balance.
  2. Place the foot to be stretched just behind your other foot (which remains squarely on the ground), with the toe of the stretching foot touching the ground.
  3. Keeping your toe firmly on the ground, pull the stretching leg forward so you feel a stretch from the top of your stretching foot through your shins. It often helps to bend both knees slightly.
  4. Once you feel a good stretch, hold it for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Repeat with the other foot.

This exercise can also be done from a seated position on the ground or in a chair, with the stretched leg underneath you. It is slightly more inconvenient than the standing version, especially in the middle of exercise. You can also lie on your side and grasp your toes from behind, similar to a lying quadriceps stretch.

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2 Responses to “How to Treat Shin Splints”

  1. Hey Steve, unfortunately, I know all too well about the ins and outs of shin splints. I got the repetitive strain injury all throughout my lower legs back in 2004 and it still prevents me today from doing some things I wish I could. The trick for me was learning about trigger points and how to treat them myself. BTW, no orthopedist, physical therapist, massage therapist, podiatrist, chiropractor, or physiatrist, could help me. Can you believe that crap? The A.R.T. and massage therapy helped but it was never a cure until I learned trigger point therapy.

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