What is shin splints?
Shin splints (or shin pain as I like to call it) is a general term used for lower leg pain that occurs below the knee or above the ankle either on the outside or inside of the shin.
It is a very common repetitive strain injury in runners and athletes.
What are the technical terms?
Medial tibial stress syndrome – pain on the inside of the shin bone caused by inflammation on the lining of the bone, stiffness of the fascia surrounding the bone or tendinopathy from one or all the muscles attaching onto the shin bone.
Tibial stress fracture– tiny cracks in the bone caused by stress and overuse.
Compartment syndrome– Overuse and physical stress can cause high pressure swelling that gets trapped in the muscle tissue causing nerve and tissue compression or damage (in acute cases only).
The shin muscle at the front can also contain muscle knots (trigger point or tiny spasm) which can often be under-diagnosed or under-treated. Trigger pointing and getting a massage ball into this muscle can help relieve shin pain and plantar fascia pain.
So if the causes are things like overuse from too much training, especially if it’s something your body has not had time to adapt to e.g. hill running. The most effective piece of advice would be to rest from running, OR decrease your training volume at least. However, the question is WHY has it happened in the first place?
Decreased calf strength has been linked with shin pain. The bigger the calf, the stronger it is to bear greater loading and therefore take the load off the shin bone.
Other factors that could contribute to shin pain:
- Inappropriate footwear
- Flat feet
- Running when you are tired – muscle fatigue
- Uneven surfaces
- Running on hard surfaces
- Quick changes in frequency or intensity of training
- Biomechanical dysfunctions – rotated pelvis
- Poor running technique – over-striding
How to relieve shin splints
ICE and HEAT – crush some ice or use ice cubes and run the ice up and down your shin bone where the painful part is. Do this for 3 minutes then apply some heat. I would recommend a bucket of hot water, and keep your leg in the bucket for about a minute and then repeat this process 3 times. Do this every evening until symptoms disappear.
INCREASE YOUR CADENCE (steps per minute) – By increasing the number of steps you take in 60 seconds can decrease loading on your shin bone and can help to avoid over-striding. This helps you land closer to your centre of mass and your shin bone is in a better position to help your hips push you forwards. By doing this, it will improve your running performance.
INCREASE STEP WIDTH- When running try to avoid kicking the backs of your calves. Try and run with a little gap in between your legs. A good way of doing this is to wrap a resistance band above your knees and then try to keep the resistance while running.
KEEP UPRIGHT- run tall and this will help to avoid a forward lean. This can also reduce the risk of over-striding and shin pain.
GET BACK TO RUNNING SLOWLY- have a 30 second breather every 10 minutes and do some dynamic stretches to help reduce tension and maintain good running form. This will help to avoid muscle fatigue too.
Treatments in the clinic that can help
- Taping the shin can help to reduce inflammation and help to relieve pain.
- Dynamic calf stretching drills, calf activation exercises in your rehab program can benefit and prevent shin splints from coming back.
- Some myofascial trigger point therapy and massage therapy can help relieve tension.
- Foam rolling the calves and glutes can help to release tight fascia.
IMPORTANT DO NOT TRY TO RUN THROUGH SHIN PAIN! PAIN IS A WARNING SIGN THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG!
IF YOU HAVE SHIN PAIN AND NEED IT FIXING – COME AND GET IT SORTED AND RETURN TO YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PAIN FREE! CALL NOW OR BOOK ONLINE!