Shin splints is more common after an increase in intensity or duration of exercise

Most athletes get shin splints — pain and tenderness along the shinbone, often accompanied by mild swelling, at some time or the other.

Professional athletes, fresh into a new season, get them. Army recruits suffer them by the batch and battalion.

The condition typically occurs after a few weeks of training, and it is more common after an increase in intensity or duration of exercise.

Shin splints are a badge of honour for some athletes: they show you give it all in training and during play. Unfortunately, shin splints are as likely to reflect poor technique, overly hard playing surfaces, worn out shoes and flat feet as hard training.

Running downhill or on slanted surfaces, and stop-and-go sports such as tennis, squash and basketball can also cause the condition.

Shin splints (“medial tibial stress syndrome” in medical lingo) represent small tears in the muscles where they attach to the shinbone. Most cases require nothing more than RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression bandage, Elevation of affected limb), and an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug. However, if the shin feels painful even after RICE, it is wise to see a doctor.

Easing back into exercise gradually can prevent recurrence of shin splints. Wearing the right shoes helps.

An orthopaedician can help you choose the right shoes for your activity and foot type, and the right orthotic supports if you have flat feet. Keep count of the distance you cover daily: after 500 km, it is time to get a new pair, even if the old one looks almost new.

Increase training intensity and duration gradually. Mix your regular exercise with cross training that is easy on the shins — swimming and cycling, for example.

These exercises are also great for keeping in shape while you are recovering from shin splints.

The humble toe raise will strengthen the leg muscles and will lessen the chances of getting shin splints. After a few weeks of regular toe raises, strength improves further with a weighted barbell on your shoulder.

RAJIV. M.

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