Runners naturally have a few topics over which they can agree, disagree, or provide input on. The best running shoe, the most accurate watch, and whether those pesky shin splints are ever going to go away!
“ Shin splints” is a catch all term used to describe pain along the shinbone (tibia) or the large bone between your knee and ankle. Shin splints are most common in runners, dancers, and military recruits. The medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome. Athletes who have recently intensified or changed their normal routine are at the most risk. The overworked muscles, tendons, and bone tissue send pain signals to your brain. Symptoms may include tenderness, soreness, or pain along the medial or inner border of your shin. Pain normally subsides when you stop the activity eliciting pain. Consult your doctor if self-care remedies and over-the-counter relievers don't ease your pain. Self-remedies may consist of rest, ice, and/or compression.
Since shin splints are a catchall term with many different pain points, it’s often difficult to identify the actual root of the problem. Most shin splints are from the bone becoming sore due to impact-related activity. A few causes may also be from muscle-related issues.
The tibialis anterior or the main muscle in the shin may swell and causes anatomical structures to become too tight in the lower leg. So how do I tell the difference? If your can apply pressure to shinbone without a ton of pain, your injury is most-likely muscle related. If you think it’s more bone related, it’s best to treat or strengthen the lower leg to prevent a stress fracture.
Spending a little extra on proper footwear may be beneficial to prevent shin splints from occurring. As Benjamin Franklin once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” However, in the terribly annoying case of shin splints, an ounce of prevention is helping to take away the pounding placed on the tibia. New shoes can help to take away that pounding. Whereas prevention begins by never increasing your mileage more than a mile or two a week.
On your runs, try to change the route or direction. Roads slant to allow water drainage and if you always run the same course you may be running on uneven surfaces causing increased symptoms. You could try going to a park and running a grass field or find a bike path that will switch up your surface.
Be adventurousness and try new things. It may even spark up your love for running again.
Prevention or rehabilitation can be done at home or in the office too. Working on ankle mobility several times a week will help strengthen and increase range of motion of the ankle and shin. If you work a desk job or spend any time sitting, this would be easy to implement while you are sitting.
Try to spell out the ABCs with just your ankle. The ankle generally moves in 4 directions. Try moving it up and down like you’re pumping the gas as well as side to side (in and out.) If that becomes easy, use a resistance band or your other hand to strengthen the muscles. Move the ankle in these 4 directions for 10 reps. It's important to strengthen the ankle because the ankle is where the muscles that run parallel to the tibia insert.
Ok, you probably reading this and thinking, “great I already have shin splints, now what?” You’re in luck! There are a number of ways to treat shin splints.
Sometimes you have to give your body a break. Pain is generally your body’s way of telling you it’s being overworked or needs some time. Take a few days off from running and try cross training. Maybe go to a yoga session or the pool.
2. Check your shoes
How long have you worn the same running shoes? Depending on your feet and your shoes, shoes should be replaced when they get worn out. If you just replaced your shoes maybe they need a bit of mileage to become comfortable and fit to you.
3. Foam Roll
This is a great recovery method! You can normally purchase foam rollers at any sporting goods store or even Wal-Mart.
Begin face down on your hands with the foam roller under your shins. Bend your arms slightly to get a good amount of traction and to control the movement as your rock back and forth on the foam roller. Keep your ankles relaxed and continue for 30-60 seconds.
Now not all supplements are worth the money, but calcium and vitamin D may help. Vitamin D can also improve your mood. Double the benefits!
5. See a specialist
If the pain is persistent, see a doctor or physical therapist for a diagnosis. Physical therapist may also be able to make you custom orthotics, which would potentially help fix or change your gate. By fixing the biomechanics of your body you could potentially decrease your pain.
Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.
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