Shin splints are characterized by pain caused by inflamed tissue that surrounds the shin bone. This condition is typically experienced by individuals who engage in physical activity in which you use the legs repetitively against a firm surface. The most common symptom of shin splints is pain in the shin area that occurs both during and after physical activity. Individuals who have pre-existing conditions such as flat feet can be more prone to shin splints, but most conditions can be addressed to both treat and prevent the condition.
In the medical community, shin splints are more commonly known as "medial tibial stress syndrome," referring to the location of the characteristic pain. The pain of shin splints typically occurs in the middle ("medial") of the shin bone ("tibia") and can be accompanied by swelling and auxiliary pain on the sides of your shin. In most cases, shin splints are found in individuals who are physically active; however, any prolonged and consistent stress or force placed on your legs can cause the condition. Exercising on a treadmill, despite its cushioned surface, can provide enough stress or force to cause shin splints.
Who is at Risk for Shin Splints?
Exercise that causes impact on the legs isn't necessarily the sole cause of shin splints. Instead, activities that overload your shins such as running downhill and sports that require quick changes in direction when running increase the risk of shin splints. Starting to jog or run at a pace or duration that is beyond your current level of physical fitness can also cause excessive stress on the legs that can lead to shin splints. Finally, wearing improperly fitting footwear and not allowing your body to recover from shin splints or from a particularly strenuous workout can lead to shin splints.
Shin Splints and Treadmills
Using a treadmill can be an efficient way to get a workout, but it can also create effects on your legs that can lead to shin splints. Shin splints, explains The Mayo Clinic, can occur when you run on an incline or downhill. In addition, running on a treadmill when your legs are not in shape can cause shin splints to develop. An alternative to completely avoiding running on a treadmill is to incorporate cross-training into your exercise routine. This approach, which combines leg-strengthening exercises with running, can reduce the amount of stress you place on your shins.
Preventing and Treating Shin Splints
Choosing footwear that is specifically created with the demands of running in mind can provide your feet with stress-reducing cushioning. The Mayo Clinic explains that aside from fitting well, running shoes should also be replaced before they lose their ability to adequately support your legs and feet. If you're already experiencing pain, stiffness or swelling in your shins when using a treadmill, increase your recovery time between workouts, apply ice packs every 15 to 20 minutes and take anti-inflammatory medications as directed.
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.