Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries. They result from tired or inflexible calf muscles putting too much stress on tendons, which become strained and torn. Overpronation aggravates this problem, as can running on hard surfaces such as concrete and running in stiff shoes.
Beginners are the most susceptible to shin splints for a variety of reasons, but the most common is that they are using leg muscles that have not been stressed in the same way before. Another common cause of shinsplints among beginners is poor choice of running shoes or running in something other than running shoes. Runners who have started running after long layoffs are also susceptible to shinsplints because they often increase their mileage too quickly.
Symptoms of shin splints include an aching, throbbing or tenderness along the inside of the shin (although it can also radiate to the outside) about halfway down or all along the shin, from the ankle to the knee. This discomfort is due to the inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the front of the lower leg. This is basically the definition of shinsplints.
Many runners experience mild shin soreness, which usually can be tolerated. “If shinsplints hit you at the beginning of a season, a certain amount of running through it will help the body adapt,” says podiatrist David O’Brian. “But if it’s a persistent problem, you shouldn’t run through it.”
If it does persist, ice the inflamed area for 15 minutes three times a day. Ice immediately after running. To hasten recovery cut down on running or stop altogether. Exercises with a resistance band will help to strengthen muscles of the lower leg. Typical recovery time is two to four weeks.
If the injury does not respond to self treatment and rest in two to three weeks, seek medical attention. Ultrasound and anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed, but surgery is rarely required. It is important to determine the cause of the problem.
While recovering from shin splints, you may want to try alternative, non impact exercises such as swimming, pool running, walking and cycling.
An Ounce of Prevention
To guard against shinsplints, stretch and strengthen the tendons and muscles in the front of the leg by using band exercises. Anchor one end of the band to a heavy object, such as the leg of a sofa. Stretch the band, and then loop it around the end of your foot. Move your foot up and down and from side to side against the band’s resistance to exercise different muscle groups. Diamond Athletic and Medical Supplies stock elasticized resistance bands.
Another simple approach is to sit on a table or chair and loop either an ankle weight or a filled paint bucket around your foot. Then lift your toes up and down. Repeat 10 – 30 times.
Also replace worn out shoes, warm up well and run on soft surfaces. Avoid over striding which puts more stress on the shins.