If you’ve ever run before, you’ve probably experienced shin splints. What are shin splints? Why do you get them? How do you get rid of them? Can they be prevented? All great questions that will be answered in this article.
First. What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints is lower leg pain that occurs below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg or the inside of the leg. The technical term is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), and it plagues many athletes, from runners to basketball players.
It often manifests itself with the following symptoms:
- Swollen or inflamed muscles. This often occurs from overuse. Too much too fast.
- Stress fracture, or tiny breaks in the lower leg bones.
- “Flat feet” or overpronation — when the hard impact of your step collapses your foot arch
- Weak muscles of the hips or core.
How do you get them?
Shin splints are super common. Runners typically get them after increasing their workout intensity, or changing the running surface. If you commonly run on a dirt trail and switch to road running, you could experience shin splints. When you start running for the first time and try to do too much too soon, you could be plagued with shin splints. Take everything in stride.
How do I get rid of them?
Shin splints usually heal on their own. You probably don’t need to go to your doctor unless the pain persists for a long time. In that case, your doctor may want to see your running stride to look for problems. Your doctor may also do an X-ray or bone scan to look for fractures if its serious.
Here’s how to treat the symptoms:
- Rest. Your body needs time to heal.
- Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, will help with any pain and swelling. These drugs can help, but remember to take in moderation.
- Ice Ice Baby. Ice helps to ease pain and swelling. Apply an ice pack to the inflamed area for 20-30 minutes every 3 -4 hours over a 2-3 day span, or until the pain is gone.
- Shoe Inserts. These can be bought off the shelf and may help with collapsed arches.
- Do Stretches and Range of Motion Exercises
In very rare cases, surgery may be needed. This is due to the stress fracture in the lower leg. Consult your doctor if pain persists for a long period of time or if the treatments listed don’t help.
You’ll know that your shin splints are fully healed when:
- You have returned flexibility in your leg.
- You can jog, sprint, and continue your half marathon training without pain.
If you plan on changing your running surface, try not to overdo it. For me this occurs when the seasons change. In the winter I typically train on a treadmill because of the weather. When spring comes and I start running on the road, I will get some shin pain due to the change in surface. I try to ease into it and not jump right into a 15 mile run outside for my first spring run.
You may need to change your shoes. Sometimes preventing shin pain is as simple as changing your shoes. If you bought your shoes off a discount shelf just because they were cheap, you may need to try something new. Head over to your local running store, they are more than helpful when it comes to finding the right shoe for your individual needs.
A good stretch is a great way to prevent shin splints. Stretching and flexibility in your legs, hips and feet are one of the best ways to prevent shin pain.
Shin splints are no fun, but with knowledge of treatments and proper prevention helps to keep you running injury free for a long, long time.
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