If you’re planning on running a spring race or marathon, it’s time to get preparing! If you’re new to running, or are thinking of taking it up then you could be at risk of shin splints. There aren’t many serious runners who haven’t been afflicted with shin splints at some point. Shin splints is a catch all term for a few problems that can affect the lower leg. Although shin splints are commonly associated with running, they aren’t something that all runners have to put up with for the rest of their lives. Shin splints are usually something that happens to people who are new to running and aren’t yet aware of what their feet and body should be doing as they run. Most shin splints are preventable and curable, so they most likely won’t affect your running permanently. They could be the cause of some time out or damage to your performance though, so it’s best to be aware of how to prevent and deal with them.
What are shin splints?
The medical name for shin splints is medial tibial syndrome. It’s a general term to describe pain in the shins caused by exercise. Shin splints can range from inflammation in the tissue (called the fascia) that connects your muscles to your tibia bone, to a separation of your fascia from the tibia bone.
What causes shin splints?
Shin splints can be caused by excessive impact and/or overuse to your lower legs.
To reduce excessive impact to your lower legs try the following:
- Make sure your shoes are well cushioned and replaced regularly.
- Try not to strike the ground with your heel when running, this means you are over striding and can cause damage to your legs and foot. It’s best to strike the ground with the mid foot.
- Don’t treadmill run too often.
- Don’t run on ground that is too soft or unstable, such as snow or sand.
- Don’t run downhill too often, if your running route includes many downhill roads then consider walking down some of them.
To avoid overuse:
- Try not to push off with your toes, when your body weight is supported by your toes then your shins have to do a lot of extra work.
- Incline your running gradually. Don’t run too fast and too far too soon.
- Warm up to a run with slow running or fast walking beforehand.
How to heal from shin splints
- If you feel pain in your shins, don’t run through it. Stop running.
- Rest your legs and give your muscles an opportunity to heal.
- Switch to a form of exercise that doesn’t require you to use your lower limbs too much or strike the ground, such as swimming. This will keep your fitness up as you recover.
- Consider a sports massage by a trained professional, this may help speed up your recovery time.
- Elevate your legs in the evenings.
- Try using ice packs 3 times a day to help reduce inflammation.
- NSAIDs like Ibuprofen may help to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- If your pain does not improve with rest or if the pain is very severe, book a physiotherapy appointment.
There is no point in returning to running once you are healed if you are not running correctly, your legs will end up getting overused and over impacted again. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you on your running technique. At Sheffield Physiotherapy we offer ViMove, this technology allows us to assess your biomechanics and the way you run in precise detail. To read more about ViMove click here. If you’re wanting to run competitively, a ViMove running assessment can not only help you avoid injuries like shin splints, but can improve your performance as well, helping you shave time off a sprint or cross country run. To read more about different kinds of running injuries click here.