Shin Splints are one of the most common injuries, especially for newer runners.
What are Shin Splints?
Basically, they’re an "overuse" injury, and common amongst new runners that aren't properly ready, fitted and/or equipped.
- Pain in the lower/front portion of your legs (your Shins)
- They’re an inflammation of the muscle/bone in the tibia bone.
- Pain usually ceases/lessens as your run progresses (as you warm-up)
Also noted by Dr. Jason Karp of http://run-fit.com/ Shin splints are a bone injury. The medical term is "medial tibial stress syndrome." It happens most often in new and young runners when the stress is too severe that the bone is initially unable to adapt. It goes away once the bone has adapted to the stress and has gone through its normal process of remodeling.
What Causes Shin Splints?
The other underlying cause of shin splints are, and in order IMO:
- Poor form & biomechanics.
- Too much, too fast, too soon.
- Improperly fit and/or old shoes
- Running Surfaces
There is a plethora of information on the internet and I've provided a few good articles throughout this write-up:
The good things with Shin Splints in my experience are that 1) They are usually easily overcome, with the CORRECT care, and usually pretty quick - a week or two. 2) I have found, me personally included, that once you get shin splints once, or maybe twice, you tend to not get them ever again - kind of like chicken pox. Of course, this isn't set in stone, but again, based on my experience.
Treatment of Shin Splints
If you find yourself with them, the initial treatments are to Rest up to a few days. With acute pain, you can use localized ice treatment and ice massage. (Freeze a paper cup of water, then peel off top edge to make a massager. Like the icey end of a push-up popsicle :) More up to a week or two, if severe. Anti inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen) along with rest and ice can help reduce inflammation, particularly in the early stages.
Improper shoes and/or fit can also be a cause. Make sure your shoes are properly measured and fit from local shops like www.roadrunnersports.com or www.movinshoes.com or similar. You may be a candidate for inserts or orthotics, but first must take the advice of running shoe professionals or doctors. *Inserts offered without a deeper understanding of you and your issues may be a waste of money and even be a worse-off solution.
Running Surfaces affect your running form and the amount of shock your body must endure. The softer the better: asphalt, and hard trails are best, solid concrete is the worst. (Super soft surfaces like mushy grass and sand introduce additional issues and shouldn't be done as a detour to shin splints)
However if the underlying causes such as tight muscles are not treated through stretching and sports massage techniques then the likelihood of the injury returning is higher. Further treatment like Sports Massage and additional treatments such as Acupuncture can also help moderate to severe cases.
Here in San Diego, Dr. Runco from www.sdri.net has great experience with helping shin splints. Other clinics such as www.rehabunited.com can assist too. Ask if they have club discounts - they commonly do.
Long Term Approach - Running Form
In my experience, the best "long term" approach is your running form. This article series is from Danny Dreyer, author and guru behind "Chi Running" which focuses on Running Form to improve economy & performance while reducing injuries.
Heel striking is the primary factor of poor running form. If you vision your entire foots as a flap, when you heel strike, your foot wants to flap down to the ground. While ever so slight, your shin muscles have to “activate” to prevent your foot from flapping to the ground. This repetitive “braking” effect wears on the muscles and over time, causes injury.
“Toeing” off too much is another factor of poor running form and has a similar effect. It causes the muscles in the lower leg to overwork, which again in the long term, causes injuries. Working on your overall running form will be one of the best things you can do for shin splint injuries and related lower leg issues.
This "Active.com" summary pages points to a few articles for reference. Some of which may offer treatments or ideas that differ from others.
In my experience, the specific ones that I have pointed out have been good with our runners. Keep this in mind, and look for common threads and ideas.
Shin Splints are one of the “Top 5” running injuries that are common amongst newer runners or runners coming off a long hiatus or for those with poor running form. The good news is that they can be combated when treated properly. The better news is that kind like Chicken Pox, they typically don’t return once remedied (unless of course, you’ve taken a long time off or have really bad form.)
As always, please let me know if you have questions.
See ya out there!
References & Articles
Here is some reference info and additional reading: