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How to Manage Your Shin Splints

Learn About Lower Leg Pain for Skaters

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Shin splints – medial tibial stress syndrome – are not a specific inline skating injury or ailment. The name shin splints is not the diagnosis of your skating problem, but it is a term used to describe a variety of problems that can cause shin pain along the front of the lower leg bone. This leg pain can come from muscle problems, bone problems or other skater-specific or skating -related problems. Your primary care physician or a sports medicine specialist will need to get complete information about your skating activities and levels, take a look at your medical history and perform a physical examination of the injury to determine the real cause of your shin splints.

When to Suspect You Have Shin Splints

Skaters with medial tibial stress syndrome may experience a dull pain or ache on the inside of their tibia bone. A skater with medial tibial stress syndrome will often feel tender or sensitive around this area of the tibia bone and can possibly have a little swelling in the same location.

How Does a Skater Get Shin Splints?

Many things can cause shin splints, but they are usually caused by overuse - especially when the overuse irritates the tendons and the tendon-to-bone connections. If a skater suddenly increases training levels, decides to skate more frequently, adds more distance, skates longer sessions or is involved in other demanding skating situations, shin splints may occur. A skater's own physical makeup or fitness levels can also make shin splints more likely to occur, too.

In order to find the underlying cause of the shin splints your primary care physician or sports medicine specialist may order an x-ray or a bone scan. The x-ray will be used to find possible current fractures, and may even discover pre-existing stress fractures. The bone scan may also be used to reveal new stress fractures and other bone problems.

Why Are Some Skaters More Likely to Get Shin Splints?

Each skater's body is unique, and every skater's body mechanics are different. One example is if a skater has flat feet, the over-pronation can cause an increased demand on the muscle group over the front of the leg and lead to complaints of shin splints. Or a skater with weak skating basics might lean forward or backward too much. Another skater could have jump landing or stroking problems that could all contribute to the development of shin splints.

The diagnostic examination by your medical professional will also be used to determine if your shin splints are caused by individual physical or skating technique problems and will be used to help find solutions.

How Are Shin Splints Treated?

Persistent shin pain must be diagnosed and evaluated by your doctor before any treatment begins. The following R.I.C.E. related treatment is typical for shin splints:

  • Rest will give your shins the time needed to recover.
  • Apply ice packs or perform ice massage.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by your doctor.
  • If you have a foot that excessively pronates, consider special footwear and orthotics inserts for your skates.
  • Perform low impact rehabilitation exercises regularly. Swimming and cycling are excellent activities for an individual with shin splints. Avoid excessive impact activities while recovering.
Learn How to Prevent Shin Splints?

Prevention is best accomplished with smart training. If your skating sport involves high impact activities, make sure you have days that are low-impact (e.g. cycling or swimming) and no running. Increase the intensity and duration of exercise gradually. When you are increasing your activity, perform more low-impact exercise in the beginning. Make sure you have proper footwear and skatewear that has been replaced regularly. If you run on grass or trails for some of your cross-training (instead of on pavement) that will also help prevent shin splints.

Remember, the best prevention come through intelligent training. Increase the intensity and duration of your skating sessions slowly. And if you decide to increase your activities, start with low-impact exercises. Many of the injuries that inline and roller skaters seem to worry about can easily be prevented through preventative fitness, by using protective gear while skating. Other injuries and medical problems associated with skating can be prevented by knowing the correct way to skate, awareness of road rules, use of safe equipment and knowing when and where to skate.

Other Sports Injuries

Skating injuries are always lurking on the horizon. Some may be overuse injuries and others may be acute or traumatic. Learn about the things you can do to prevent, identify or get professional treatment for some common inline skating injuries:

This document was reviewed by our Medical Review Board in 2012 and is considered medically accurate.

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  4. Health & Fitness 101
  5. How to Treat Injuries
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  7. How to Manage Your Shin Splints: Learn About Lower Leg Pain for Skaters

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