what are shin splints?
If you’re here you are likely suffering from shin splint pain and looking for shin splint treatments. So let us start with what on earth are shin splints. The answer to this isn’t super straightforward as we don’t know 100% what causes shinsplints. Some runners – especially if you’re just starting or are increasing mileage rapidly – develop a pain and tenderness in the shin area on the front of the legs.
Shin splints are also called medical tibial stress syndrome.
Medial tibial stress syndrome is the term for shin splints that affect the inner border of the tibia (shinbone). If you firmly rub your finger along the inner border of the tibia you should be able to locate the sore area. Pain is more commonly felt in the middle third of the shin but can be higher or lower.
These nasty little demons can be tamed with a little TLC -read on to discover a host of injured runner’s best shin splint treatments.
How shin splints are caused
The pain is a result of the muscles tugging on the lining of your shinbone. If the stress of running exceeds your body’s ability to strengthen the area, your shin begins to hurt. Training errors and foot mechanics affect this area substantially. The good news is they do improve with rest and shin splint treatments.
What makes me more likely to get shin splints?
Some factors seem to make people more likely to get shin splints and these can be addressed to help shin splint treatment and recovery and also to make them less likely to return.
People who are overweight are more at risk due to the increased load on the lower leg. Beginners are also at risk – especially if they build up their mileage quickly without allowing the time for the lower leg muscles to develop.
If you have had shin splints before then you’re more at risk of getting them again – and women are more affected than men. This may be linked to biomechanics and imbalances of hip or core muscles may play a role.
If I have shin splints – how long should I rest for?
Rest is crucial and you must wait until you don’t have pain and no tenderness if you press on your shins, or jumping – before you run again.
It will probably take between two to four weeks for the pain to go. If running is painful – why don’t you try cycling or swimming. Get started on shin splint treatments to improve your shin splints asap.
Shin splint Treatments
- Insoles or orthotics (custom foot supports) may help support the foot so that the muscles that attach to the shin don’t have to work as hard or as long.
- Gentle stretching of the calf muscles two to three times per day often speeds recovery. The bent knee calf stretch is particularly effective, you should stretch firmly enough to feel a gentle stretch in the painful area. See bent knee calf stretches and straight knee calf stretches
- Ice is particularly effective and should be applied after each run.
- If you think your shin splints have been brought on by running too far before you were ready – manage this return to distance. But returning to running gradually and slowly increasing the load is key.
- Don’t forget strengthening and balance training. You’ll be amazed at how well this works, especially if you have been struggling with shin splints for a while.
- An anti-inflammatory cream could be used to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Massaging the muscle tissue along the border of the shin often speeds recovery. Simply use your thumb and some lotion to stroke upward along the shinbone. Some people will do this in the shower or tub to loosen it up at the start of the day.
- Bare foot walking for 2-5 minutes helps to strengthen the foot muscles which will decrease the strain on the shin area. It’s a great shin splint treatments – and also strengthens this area to decrease the chance of it returning. This works best in a grassy or sandy area but is also beneficial if a pavement is your only option.
- Calf raises whilst holding a weight in each hand is a simple exercise you can do at home – and strong calves can reduce the recurrence of shin splints.
- Ice is particularly effective shin splint treatments, and should be applied after each run
- Strengthening of the dorsiflexors is often very effective for these shin splints. One way to strengthen them is by walking on your heels for a couple of minutes.
- Massaging the muscle on the front of the shin helps reduce the pain. You can massage your self by sliding your fingers along the front, outer border of the shin working upwards towards your knee.
- Insoles, or orthotics (custom foot supports) may help support the foot as shin splint treatments – so that the muscles that attach to the shin don’t have to work as hard or as long.
Shin splint pain
Be guided by your own pain. Don’t try and run through it. Return to cross training if it flares up again. And if it doesn’t improve even by using shin splint treatments – consider a trip to the doctor just to check it’s not a stress fracture.