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Chronic Shin Splints? See A Sports Medicine Doctor

It's not unusual for runners to develop shin splints, especially when they're new to the sport or when they ramp up their mileage quickly. Usually, if you take a few days off, ice your shins, and take a few doses of NSAIDs, the shin splints fade away. But what if they don't? If your shin splints keep coming back again and again, then you have what's known as chronic shin splints. This is a good reason to see a sports medicine doctor, who is likely to recommend the following diagnosis and treatment protocols.


The symptoms of shin splints are very similar to those of a stress fracture. So your sports medicine doctor will often begin by sending you in for an x-ray just to ensure you don't have a fracture. If you do have a stress fracture, taking about 6 weeks off and staying off your feet as much as possible will allow the fracture to heal. 

If the x-rays do not show a fracture, then it's generally confirmed that you do have shin splints, and your doctor will proceed in treating them with the methods that follow.

Cold Therapy

Hopefully, you have already been icing your shin splints. Your sports medicine doctor will likely recommend increasing this protocol. Ice can really help get the inflammation down, which is ultimately what your shins need to heal. You may be told to ice your shins every few hours for a week or so. Your doctor may even give you an ice machine — a device you can slip over your leg that circulates cold water and allows you to comfortably ice your shins for longer periods.

Changes in Footwear

Your sports medicine doctor will probably also watch you run to see if there is something about your stride that is making your shin splints so serious. For instance, you may be landing too heavily on your heel, causing extra concussion on your shins. Based on their assessment of your running, your sports medicine doctor may recommend a change in footwear. They might recommend a set of shoes with padding in a different area to correct your stride, or they may recommend cushioning orthotic inserts. Using these as you ease your way back into running can help keep the shin splints from coming back once again.

Chronic shin splints can be a real pain to deal with, but they are something that sports medicine doctors are very experienced in diagnosing and managing. So never hesitate to seek help.

Reach out to a sports medicine doctor today to learn more.