Shin splints is a common term use d to refer to a rather more complex scientific term known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It is one type of running injury that occurs on the lower section of your leg to the front where the tibia bone is.
It is basically where you will wear your shin guards in sports such as football or hockey. You may also experience the pain associated with shin splints on the lower leg but to the back or posterior where the calf muscles are or in the leg itself.
The latter is known as medial shin splint. Shin splints attack athletes who are involved with rigorous sports to those who have much lighter physical involvement such as dancing.
It is most incident in individuals who are utterly psyched for a run that they forget they need to start from somewhere. That they need to build mileage in a tapering manner so that you run each season on higher grounds.
It also occurs when you change a sport perhaps one that requires you to run on a much harder ground surface than previously such as happens when you shift from football (the ground absorbs landing shock and hence softer) to basketball (more rigid and harder ground).
Why should you get rid of them?
You should get rid of shin splints due to the following reasons:
Complications: there are complications that are associated with shin splints including placing other muscles of your leg when you are compelled to walk on the lateral aspects of the foot due to the pan.
If you do not get rid of them, you might end up with an abnormal walking posture that eventually leads to back strain. Back strain can lead to lumbargo and further, years of lost life due to low quality life over the years. Gait that is stressing some joints can lead to osteoarthritis.
Ineffective physical exercise: you will not be able to prepare well for a sport upcoming when you have shin splints. Therefore, it may force you to take the bench while your colleagues battle it out on without you.
Shin splints are common and have a number of causes therefore. Causes and risk factors that increase probability of the causal factor are discussed in this section. Risks and causes include:
- Flat foot deformity: this is an acquired progressive and painful deformity that is caused by a slow stretch of the tibialis posterior tendon. It also involves the ligaments that support the arch of the foot.
- Improper running: when you run in a prone or supine manner then chance are you are exerting lots of pressure on your leg muscles. The best running posture is that which your back is straight relative to your legs. Running and landing on the heel of your feet is also wrong and could lead to shin splints. You need to practice on how to run and land on the middle of your soles.
- Over-training: the problem with new and inexperienced athletes tend to overdo their training. They target higher hits too soon and end up with aggravating shin splints.
- Running on hard ground: running on ground that is hard could strain your muscles as the ground does not offer a soft landing.
- Improper shoes: the shoes you run in are a detrimental factor that could prevent shin splints from occurring. If you run on shoes that aren’t rubber, then it isn’t any different from running on hard ground. The same applies if your shoes are worn out.
- Muscle imbalances and tightness: you will find that at times your muscles get tensed and make it hard for you to run. More of a muscle pull. Periodic tightness and relaxation without any balance could bring about shin splints.
- Running downhill: this forces you to land on your heels which is not so healthy. It also leads to a supinating posture in order to oppose the gravitational pull.
- Sports that involve tight turns, stops and starts: you have probably seen this in football or skiing. In these sports, the sudden use of the calf muscles could lead to tension build-up and shin splints.
Shin splints occur with the following spectrum of symptoms:
- Pain on the anterior part of the lower leg (shin). However, compartment syndrome and stress fracture could be differentially considered in diagnosis.
- Pain developing as you are doing your run or exercises.
- Pain that is delocalized or radiating to the back of the leg or inside.
- Pain that is aggravated on movement of the leg. Most painful when you are trying to flex your foot or lift your ankle.
- Tenderness on the lower leg. This is pain on touching or exerting pressure on the site.
- Sometimes numbness
You may experience some of the symptoms or all.
In order to differentiate between shin splints and stress fracture, gently press on the shin to feel for any sharp pain. If the pain is dull and diffuse, then this is not shin splint.
How to get rid of Shin Splints Fast while still Running
There are methods that you can use to counter shin splints. Like other injuries to the leg, shin splints can be reduced or managed while you run. Here’s how:
- Tie a pack of ice to your shin: if you had an ice-pack or you can access one, then you could simply tie it around the shin. Since you are running, you will have no need to have it changed every 2 – 4 hours as required. You will definitely do this when you are done with running. Let the ice pack stay on the shin for about 20 minutes then remove it. Run slowly while making sure that you do not land hard on your heel.
- Spray some ‘Deep Heat’: the analgesic property this form has on sprained leg muscles will help you continue running while still in shin splints but this time manageable as the pain is alleviated.
- Choose softer surfaces in your path: try to avoid areas along your path that are hard and irregular or rough such as concrete, slabs or stony paths. Therefore, this will require you to take a whole different route or simply maneuver your way through by landing on softer areas. Soft areas such as grass or dirt trails.
- Run on your toes: to prevent aggravating the shin splints, run on the edge of your toes. This will make the foot flex downwards and reduce the pain. This is similar to pulling your toes towards the shins and holding briefly to contract the shins.
- Run on your mid-foot: since you are running in shoes, you will sub-consciously find yourself landing on the hind of the sole rather than mid-sole. It is however natural to land mid-sole when you are barefoot. Therefore, change this if it is what has brought the shin splints to life.
- Do a quick calf stretch: this will ensure that you relax the tensed muscles of the tibialis and the calf muscles. You could even do a small massage when you have taken a seconds-break to relieve the shin splints.
It might be difficult managing shin splints while running and only experienced runners will be able to institute it. However, even if you are experienced and you still experience the pain even upon the trying the interventions, then it is time to stop running and deal with it first. You will probably have to walk after this.
Other ways to Heal Shin Splints Quickly-Not while running
It is recommended that you do not continue running when you get a shin splint. You should give your leg some time to rest. It may resolve in a few hours on its own but may continue for weeks. Do the following to treat shin splints:
- Apply ice packs to treat the inflammation and pain
- Elevate your legs when seated or lying on the bed to promote blood flow and drainage of lymph fluid.
- You can consider wearing a compression bandage or stockings
- Massage your shins with a foam roller
- Treat the pain by taking pain killers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
- You can take muscle relaxants such as chlorzoxazone. This may be found combined with paracetamol is some brands such as ‘Doloact’, ‘Myolgin’ or ‘Flamcheck’ among many others.
Tips to Prevent Shin Splints
Take some time off: you have been running for some days now. You need a rest. You need not over-work your body into running each day as this has been shown to cause shin splints. In fact, for new runners, you shouldn’t run two days in a row and if you think you can, then take a break after the second run. This will help introduce your muscles into running and soon, you will be able to run each day. Again, you will still need a break to cool off.
Increase your mileage slowly: do not force yourself into running huge mileages on your first day. This will kill you if not give you shin splints. Start off on a low note as you add some mileages to the previous in a tapering manner. With increased tolerance and acclimatization, you can take it to the next level. Then remember to give yourself recovery time.
Choose softer grounds to run on: running on hard ground results in stress exerted on the muscles. This makes you get shin splints. Choose softer grounds to run on such as that with grass to cushion you from the shock you will have to endure with landing on hard ground. Running on a treadmill can be much better than running on the road.
Procure the right running shoes: shoes, as mentioned earlier need to be road-worthy in the first place. They shouldn’t be worn out. Frequently check your shoes for a breach on the sole to ensure that hard surface does not catch up with you.
It is also mentioned that you should change your shoes after a mileage of 300-400 miles of running. If you are not able to fathom the best shoes to run in, you can ask your instructor or the shoe-seller for options and advice. When choosing a good shoe, consider shock-absorbing insoles.
Fix your running form: avoid running on your heels. Running on the heels is like landing on hard surface that sends shocks of stress to your muscles making the calf and tibial muscles more rigid to counter the effect. Run on your mid-sole as this section is able to absorb the shock as it acts like a cushion.
You should also not land on your toes too much as you may also overwork your calf muscles which can contribute to shin splints. You should also ensure that you do not pronate or supinate while running. Your back should be straight to balance out the weight of your body as you run.
Do some warm-up before taking to the road: a warm up prepares your muscles for a more rigorous exercise. Try the ‘over-the-counter’ heel lift in which you stretch your calf muscle over a counter. Do some toe raises before running. Toe raises flexes the toe toward the shin and relaxes the tibial muscles.