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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

If you have shin splints, your doctor probably will recommend that you follow the RICE rules:

  • Rest the injured muscle — Take a break from running for 7 to 10 days.

  • Ice the injured area to reduce swelling.

  • Compress the muscle with an elastic bandage.

  • Elevate the injured leg.

In addition, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others), to ease pain and tenderness. To maintain your overall fitness level while you rest your legs, try swimming, water jogging or other athletic activities as recommended by your doctor.

As your pain gradually goes away, your doctor may suggest that you start with a walking program before you begin running again. If your shin pain returns when you walk, then you will need to rest your legs again until you are pain-free for two or three days. As part of your rehabilitation, your doctor also may recommend an exercise program to strengthen the muscles in your lower legs and around your ankles.

If you have a mechanical imbalance in the way you walk, and this increases your risk of shin splints, your doctor may recommend that you use arch supports or heel wedges in your shoes to correct the imbalance.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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