'Shin splints' is a term often used to describe pain caused by unusual or repetitive stress to the lower leg. It involves the two muscles that run from the knee to the ankle and the side of the foot. These muscles point the foot up and down, and support the arch and the front of the foot while walking and running. Inflammation of the tendons in these muscles can cause shin splints and are characterized by pain, aching, and swelling anywhere in the lower leg. Shin splints may also be related to a condition known as compartment syndrome, in which the muscle grows too large for its outer cover. Most doctors recommend rest, ice, compression, and elevation as initial treatment for the injury. You can help prevent shin splints by cutting down on the stresses that tend to cause the injury by wearing supportive shoes, stretching before physical activity, and exercising on soft surfaces such as wood or grass. For more information on shin splints, contact an orthopedic or sports-medicine professional.