Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, cause pain in the front of the shin and can be a runner’s worst nightmare. Here’s how to cope:
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), are a common overuse injury that often affects runners and other athletes. They primarily involve pain and discomfort in the front of the lower leg along the shinbone (tibia). Here’s more information about what shin splints are and how they can affect runners:
Causes Of Shin Splints
- Shin splints occur when there is excessive stress placed on the shinbone and the surrounding tissues. This stress can result from a combination of factors, including:
- Rapidly increasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of running or physical activity.
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces, such as concrete.
- Wearing improper or worn-out running shoes that lack adequate cushioning and support.
- Muscle imbalances or weaknesses in the lower leg and ankle.
- Poor running form or biomechanical issues that lead to overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot) or other gait abnormalities.
Symptoms Of Shin Splints
- The primary symptom of shin splints is pain along the front of the shinbone. This pain may start as a dull ache but can progress to a more intense, sharp, or throbbing pain with continued stress or activity. Runners often experience shin splint pain during or after running, and it can persist even during rest.
How To Deal With Shin Splints
- Listen to Your Body: If you start feeling a dull ache in your shins, it’s a warning sign. Your body is telling you to make adjustments to prevent shin splints from worsening.
- Identify Causes: Shin splints can result from weaknesses or overuse in the lower leg and calf muscles, pounding on hard surfaces, hip or ankle weakness, and calf muscle tightness leading to limited ankle mobility.
- Take a Break: If your shins hurt, avoid running or jumping activities and give your shins time to heal.
- Ice: Apply ice to your shins for 15 minutes at least twice a day to reduce inflammation.
- Stretch: Perform deep calf stretches daily, both with a bent and straight knee, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
- Strengthen: Strengthen your calf muscles with eccentric heel raises. Perform two to three sets of ten repetitions, emphasizing slow and controlled descent.
- Modify: Consider changing your sneakers if they are old or not providing enough support. Run on softer surfaces like dirt paths instead of hard pavement. Adjust the amount you’re running, and always stretch before and after your runs.
- Foam Roll: Some runners find relief from shin splints by using a foam roller on their calf and shin muscles.
- Patience and Awareness: Recovery from shin splints takes time. Listen to your body here and play the patience game. You can return to running without pain with the right adjustments and consistent care.
Remember we aren’t medical professionals but have built up this knowledge through years of experience as well as consulting with experts. If your shin splints persist or worsen despite these measures, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for a proper diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.