Are you experiencing an aching or throbbing pain in your shins? Is this pain or discomfort keeping your from running and exercising? You’re likely experiencing one of the most common running injuries known as shin splints.
What are shin splints?
Shin Splints are one of the most common injuries that runners come across. The term is typically applied to any pain that’s occurring below the knee and above the ankle on the front of the leg. Shin splints can occur in either the inside of the leg (medial shin splints), or outside of the leg (anterior shin splints.) This injury is common among a vast assortment of athletes, from runners to dancers.
Shin splints are most common among new runners who aren’t increasing their mileage gradually. If you’re new to running, it’s wise to build your mileage gradually, allowing you muscles time to repair and build themselves. Likewise, if you’re a seasoned runner and you’ve recently changed your regimen (from flat surfaces to hills, for example) you too might be experiencing the ill effects of not giving your muscles time to adapt, causing shin splints to occur.
Shin Splint Symptoms:
Pain and tenderness in the lower leg
The inability to flex your toes up towards your shin without pain or discomfort
Pain in your legs between your knees and ankles that occurs after a few miles of running
It’s important to remember that not all pain in your lower legs is necessarily due to shin splints. Pain in the outside part of the lower leg may be compartment syndrome, which is a swelling of muscles within a closed compartment within the lower leg. This creates pressure, unusual nerve sensations and eventually muscles weakness. To diagnose this condition you’ll likely have to visit a doctor. However, before you do try using compression socks during your run. The compression might help the blood in that specific compartment flow better, relieving the pressure that’s causing you discomfort. If you’re a regular runner and you’re experiencing pain in your lower leg around or above your ankles but below your knees, you could have a stress fracture (a micro fracture in either the tibia for fibula.) This can only be diagnosed via a professional using an x-ray.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Worn or ill-fitting running shoes
Lack of stretching
Muscle inefficiency or imbalance
Typically only 1 leg is affected when it comes to shin splints, and it’s usually the runner’s dominant leg. The pain is usually a result from an imbalance between the calf muscles and the muscles in the front of your leg.
Over pronation is when the foot rolls more than 15 degrees inward to meet the ground after heel strike. This rotation of the ankle forces the big toe to do most of the work to push itself back off the ground to being your next stride. This impact imbalance is what causes additional pain in the lower leg typically referred to as shin splints.
The most unfortunate part of shin splints is that doctors and physical therapists will recommend you stop running until the inflammation decreases and your muscles have time to repair themselves. The LAST thing in the world you want to do is stop running, Road Runner Sports has come up with a few options that could help you resolve your shin splint issues without having to stop running!
Shin Splint Exercises
1. Stretch, stretch and stretch again! – Stretch your Achilles tendon, your front shins and your calves regularly to try and solve your shin splint woes. Shin splint stretches could make or break your recovery, so make sure you’re diligent about doing them!
2. Trace the alphabet on the floor with your big toes. Do this with each of your legs – this will help stretch and strengthen your front calf/shin muscles.
3. Alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with walking regularly for 30 seconds – this exercise with help strengthen your front calf/shin muscles, helping to avoid shin splint issues in the future. Try to do #1, #2, and #3 three times a day!
4. If your shin splint problems aren’t cured after trying each of these options, you may want to consider cross training (swimming, cycling, weight training, etc.) until you’re able to run again. Once you start running again, remember to increase your mileage slowly. No more than 10% increase in distance daily