ALBEMARLE COUNTRY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Shin splints and stress fractures are painful leg injuries, but there are techniques people can use to avoid them.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital explains shin splints are an overuse injury in the tibia that causes pain in the shins.

When such an injury is left untreated or does not get the care it needs, it can become something worse, a stress fracture.

"Usually the result of over-training, or too much training too fast, going from no running to a lot of running or no jumping to a lot of jumping," said John Walker, a certified athletic trainer at Sentara MJH.

He says there are ways to avoid such injuries.

"Proper warm up, proper stretching, making sure that your calf muscles are flexible, have good elasticity in them,” Walker said. “You want them to be mobile, because that will reduce the amount of stress that it pulls on the shin bones." 

Shin splints often cause pain throughout the shin, but a stress fracture will hurt in a focused area, usually about the size of a quarter.

Stress fractures are more serious injuries and require an X-ray to be diagnosed. They also require a longer recovery time.

"It's a more significant injury,” said Walker. “It’s more trauma to the bone, not just the tissue that's connected to it, so the stress fracture will take longer to recover from."

If a person is experiencing pain, Walker says to stop doing what’s causing it.

"So stop your running, stop your jumping, and catch it early,” he said. “If you start to feel pain while you're doing something, while you're running, stop, switch to another training method. We call it cross training, so you can swim, bike, use the elliptical, something that's not putting the pounding pressure on the shins."

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and ice are also great tools to help with the pain caused by shin splints and stress fractures.

Walker suggests that people should get new shoes every 300 to 500 miles, just like they would get new tires for their vehicle. Worn shoes provide less support, forcing the body to work harder.