Healthy Living

Are There Medications to Treat Shin Splints?

Are There Medications to Treat Shin Splints?

Shin splints refer the pain your feel along the inner aspect of your shin bone. It usually follows high intensity physical activities and in sports like basketball, soccer and tennis. Shin splints are a common problem among runners and other athletes.

The best way to treat a shin splint is by giving your body the adequate rest it needs so the splint can heal on its own without any medication. But medications are often used to reduce the severe pain and inflammation that can come from shin splints.

Have a question aboutshin splints?Ask a doctor now

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Shin splints involve an inflammatory process as well. Inflammation occurs in the tendons that attach muscles to bone. The inflammation can be reduced with adequate rest and ice but medications also can be administered. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used for this purpose.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are commonly prescribed to patients with shin splints to reduce inflammation as well as pain. Some of the commonly used NSAIDS are Ibuprofen and Motrin. These medications can be taken over the counter or as prescribed drugs.

How do NSAIDS work?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. These enzymes are responsible for the body’s production of prostaglandins. It is these prostaglandins that cause swelling and pain in areas of tissue injuries like in shin splints. So by blocking the cyclooxygenase enzyme, the production of prostaglandins will be stopped and therefore the swelling and pain will be reduced as a result.

Although it looks simple, prostaglandin has other functions and therefore these functions will also be inhibited with the use of NSAIDS. Another important function of the prostaglandins is to protect the gastric mucosa. With the use of NSAIDS, this function is also lost and therefore puts you at risk of developing stomach ulcers. Because of this reason, doctors usually prescribe NSAIDS along with drugs that will help to protect the gastric mucosa such as omeprazole.

Can Everyone With Shin Splints Take NSAIDS?

If you do not have any contraindications for the drug, then you can take NSAIDS without any problem. NSAIDS are contraindicated in females who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with gastric ulcers and in those who are already on blood-thinning drugs. 

NSAIDS are the only drugs that are commonly used for the treatment for shin splints. If NSAIDS do not work, then your doctor will prescribe you stronger pain killers such as paracetamol and codeine.


Codeine is an opioid pain killer and is sometimes referred to as a narcotic. Codeine is not an over-the-counter pain medication. It is only given as a prescription drug. It is used as the last resort because of its side effects of addiction. You should not use codeine if you are allergic to it.

Along with these medications, other treatment methods such as resting, icing the tender swollen area, wearing comfortable shoes and carrying out strengthening and stretching exercises will help you to recover from shin splints quickly.

Shin Splints