Shin splints

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 will be answered in this article.

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are 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.  Running too much too fast.

Stress fracture

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

Muscle fatigue in your core and/or hips can lead to shin pain.

How do you get shin splints?

They 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 pain. 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 shin splints?

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 it’s serious.

Here’s how to treat the symptoms:

Get rest

Your body needs time to heal.

Take anti-inflammatories for shin splint pain

Taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, will help with any pain and swelling. These drugs can help, but remember to take them in moderation.

Ice shins

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.

Use 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 a 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.

Preventing Shin Splints

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.

Stretching for shin splint prevention

A good stretch is a great way to prevent shin pain. Stretching and flexibility in your legs, hips, and feet are one of the best ways to prevent shin pain.

Bottom line on shin splints

Shin splints are no fun, but knowledge of treatments and proper prevention helps to keep you running injury-free for a long, long time.