As a runner, it is important that you understand what shin splints are and how they can be treated and prevented, because these types of injuries are a common among runners. This article is designed to give you a good overview about the topic of shin splints, so that you can take the steps that are necessary to prevent them.
What are Shin Splints?
When the calf muscles become tired or inflexible, they can begin to cause stress on the tendons near the tibia. Eventually, this stress can cause those tendons to become strained, and eventually tear away.
In some situations, shin splints might be associated with stress fractures that occur in the lower bones of the leg, although the stress fractures don’t occur in every person with shin splints.
Causes of Shin Splints
There are several main causes of shin splints, these things can aggravate the symptoms:
- Running on hard surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete
- Overpronation, when the foot rolls inward as you run or walk
- Running in the wrong types of shoes, usually shoes that are stiff
- Long distance running without the right training
- Quickly ramping up running intensity and distance
These causes will aggravate the tendons near the shin, and cause inflammation to occur. Typically, shin splints are more common in beginning runners, mainly because their leg muscles are not used to the stress and repetitive motions that are occurring while they are running. These problems often occur if they start running long distances without slowly working up their miles. Too often, people get over-eager with their training, and they push too many miles in the beginning… only to result in injury and the need to stop training for awhile.
Symptoms of Shin Splints
The pain from shin splints is usually felt along the inside section of the shin bone, but sometimes the pain will begin to radiate towards the outside as well. If you have shin splints, you will experience tenderness, throbbing, and aching in this area.
One way to tell if you have shin splints is if the pain increases when you press your finger against the sore area. Also, pay attention to the times when the pain is most severe. For example, most people with shin splints find that their pain is severe at the beginning of a run, but then the pain begins to decrease as the muscles are warmed and loosened up. When you are done running, the pain will return again.
Keep in mind that the pain from shin splints is very different from mild soreness that occurs after running. Most runners will experience sore muscles, but the soreness goes away within a short period of time. With shin splints, the pain is more severe and will remain for an extended period of time.
Treatments for Shin Splints
For mild cases of shin splints, in the beginning you can try running through the pain to see if the body will adjust and repair. Keeping the muscles stretched and working can often be the perfect solution. But, if the pain is persistent, then you should stop running and focus on treatment instead.
With persistent pain, make sure that you are consistent with two things: ice and medication for the inflammation. Apply ice to the shins three times a day, for 15 minutes at a time. Also, take ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory as needed for the pain. You can also work to strength your leg muscles with resistance bands, which will be discussed in the next section.
Shin splints and other runners injuries or syndromes will usually go away within about 2 to 4 weeks. If you find that the pain is consistent after this timeframe, then it is important that you schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. A doctor will sometimes suggest shoe inserts to help prevent overpronation, or they may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications.
Preventing Shin Splints
If you are a runner, then it is better to take proactive steps to prevent the shin splints, rather than waiting to treat shin splints after they have already occurred. Band exercises are a great way to increase flexibility and strength in the front of the leg.
Attach one end of the band to the leg of a sofa or table (or any other heavy object), and the other end around the ball of your foot. Move your foot in different directions, using the resistance of the band to strengthen the muscles. You can also do this exercise with ankle weights while sitting in a chair.
Also, it is important that you buy high quality running shoes, which can help to prevent shin splints and other problems such as a stress fracture. When possible, run on soft surfaces, and make sure that you spend enough time warming up before your run.
Shin Splints Equipment
Some equipment will be necessary for your recovery and rehabilitation. This equipments will help you to do the exercises more effectively.
Resistance Band Set (lower leg exercises)
A resistance band is the most efficient tool for getting rid of shin splints. It is suggest to buy a set, because each band has a different level of strength.
Balance board (lower leg exercises)
Balance boards are an effective way of strengthening the lower leg muscles and stabilizing the hip and core muscles. It improves the motion of the ankle and is one of the methods of beating the underlying cause of shin pain.
Archxerciser Foot Strengthening Device (lower leg exercises)
Runners with weak arches should do exercises to strength the arch. It can be done with a towel, but the Archxerciser can do with more efficiency.
There are researches that proof the effeciency of compression socks to prevent shin splints. However, they will help increase the blood flow in the muscles in your lower leg. This will reduce the chance of inflammation, pain, and discomfort.
Calf Compression Sleeve (prevention and pain management)
The purpose of the compression sleeve is similar to the compression socks, improve the blood flow. The sleeve is more indicated to runners who prefer freedom between the calf and the foot.
Insole (prevention and pain management)
Premium insoles with proper running shoes can prevent and correct from lower leg injuries. They create a good support for runners with high arch and low arch. The insoles are long lasting and they recommend for all runners. Two of the suggested are Superfeet and SOLE.
Foam Rollers (massage equipment)
Excellent tool to prevent injuries. Alleviates muscle and soft tissue tightness. It can be used for shin splints stretching and massage.
Roller Massager (massage equipment)
Great tool to help reduce muscle tightness, soreness and pain. All runners must have a roller massager.
Foot Roller or massage ball (massage equipment)
These are great tool to massage the small muscles in your foot. Apply some pressure to stimulate the circulation. It is easy to use and it can be part of your daily rehabilitation.
Calf Stretch Slant Board (stretching)
The stretch slant board helps to increase your flexibility and improve your posture. It is an excellent equipment to aid in rehabilitation of shin splints.
Foot rocker (stretching)
A regular tennis ball can be efficient enough, but you can also get a foot massager to stimulate the circulation. It can be used as daily rehabilitation.
When should I Return to running?
I must start running after a complete recovery from shin splints. Give the right time to heal, and slowly return to running. Go to your doctor and get the approval to run again.
If your shin splints aren’t properly healed, you might have a further damage or more other inflammations.
Once the checkup is done, take to your coach or some expertise to create a training program that best fit your running return.