Shin splints occur when stiff or overworked muscles and tendons in the lower leg begin to pull on the tibia bone and the connective tissues around the bone. Many athletes, particularly runners, experience this painful injury. You can heal most cases of shin splints with rest and other simple remedies. If you do not treat shin splints properly, the condition can get worse.
Don't try to run or perform high-impact exercise with shin splints, even if you have an important game or race coming up. Running through the pain can make the condition worse. As soon as you feel pain in your shins, rest your legs and avoid high-impact exercise for one to two weeks. Continue exercising with low-impact activities, such as biking, swimming laps or performing water aerobics. Take the elevator instead of the stairs whenever you can, and walk with crutches if the pain prevents you from walking comfortably.
Icing the injured shins can relieve the pain and help them to heal, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Place ice packs wrapped in paper towels over your shins for 20-minute periods. Ice your shins four to eight times every day until shin pain dissipates. Reduce swelling in your shins by elevating your lower legs. Elevate your legs while you sleep for one or two nights. While your shins heal, you can relieve pain with over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Avoid aggravating your shin splints when you resume normal exercise and prevent future occurrences. Replace worn out running shoes, or consider adding insoles or arch supports to make your shoes more supportive and comfortable. When you run long distances, opt for soft running trails instead of asphalt or pavement. Alternate between high-impact exercises and low-impact exercises to give your legs a break. Regularly stretch your lower leg muscles -- including the calf muscles at the back of the leg and the tibialis anterior at the front -- to increase their resistance to strain. Strengthen your lower-leg muscles with heel raises and toe raises so those muscles will absorb stress more effectively.