Shin splints is the common term for what is medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome. Runners experience tight, achy pain and/or tenderness in the front or inside of the lower leg along the shin bone. The pain is caused by small tears and inflammation in the muscles surrounding the tibia, or shin bone.
The most common cause of shin splints is doing too much too soon, so the condition is especially common among new runners and runners returning to the sport after an extended break. Regular runners who suddenly increase their mileage and training intensity are also at risk. Worn-out or improper footwear can also contribute to the development of shin splints and runners with high or low arches are more likely to have trouble.
It is important to note that if walking or hopping hurts, you could be dealing with something more serious, like a stress fracture. Searing pain with every step and extreme tenderness are also warning signs and point to a potential fracture. If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult with your doctor.
Treatment and Prevention
There are several steps runners can take to treat shin splints and prevent them from recurring, including:
Rest. Try backing off to a distance and intensity level that doesn’t cause pain. If all running causes pain, stop completely and allow your body time to heal until you can run without pain. In the meantime, try biking or swimming to maintain your fitness.
Treat the pain and inflammation with ice and anti-inflammatory medications.
Try running on soft surfaces that reduce the stress on your legs.
Taping the shin and/or wearing an ankle brace can speed recovery because both measures reduce the stress on the muscles supporting the shin.
In the future, increase mileage and intensity gradually, allowing the muscles time to adjust to the changes in training. A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week.
Invest in supportive running shoes and consider arch supports or orthotics.
Whether you are new to running or have been pounding the pavement for years, paying attention to the rate at which you increase your mileage and keeping yourself in supportive shoes can help keep shin splints at bay. Contact us for more information about shin splints and more tips to keep you running strong!