What are shin splints?
Shin splints is a general term used to describe pain along your shin bone – your tibia – that usually develops or gets worse when you exercise, particularly when running.
If you have shin splints, the pain may be down the front or sides of your shin. It’s caused by damage to the muscles, tendons or bone tissue around your shin.
What are the symptoms of shin splints?
As anyone who has suffered from shin splints will tell you, it’s not a subtle injury. You’re more than likely to feel serious pain.
The pain usually happens when you’re exercising and may, at first, ease off during your session.
However, if it becomes too severe to continue, you need to stop. The pain may ease when you stop exercising, only to come back later. If your shin splints are particularly severe, you may have pain when you’re resting. Sometimes, you may also have mild swelling around the area that’s painful.
What causes shin splints?
- A change in your activity level, such as starting a new exercise plan or suddenly increasing the distance or pace you run
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces
- Wearing poorly fitting or worn-out trainers that don’t cushion and support your feet properly
- Having flat feet or feet that roll inwards (known as over-pronation)
- Having tight calf muscles, weak ankles or a tight achilles tendon (the band of tissue connecting the heel to the calf muscle)
- Tight calf muscles and hamstrings
- Weak quadriceps or foot arch muscles
- Medial tibial stress syndrome (stress on your shin bone)
- Muscle strain, where you overstretch certain muscles in the front of your leg and damage some of the muscle fibres
- Tendon dysfunction – general overloading of the tendon leading to changes that cause swelling and pain
How do you treat shin splints?
There’s plenty you can do yourself, particularly in mild cases:
- Stop running for a few weeks
How do you avoid shin splints?
So there’s plenty you can do to treat shin splints, but clearly it’s far better to avoid them altogether. Start by making sure you’ve got the right gear.
Check your trainers are supportive enough. Specialist running shops can give you advice and information about your trainers. Orthotic insoles for your shoes may also help to improve the way you run.
It’s also important to build up your activity gradually, and if you are having problems, consider moving your runs off-road.
It’s important to listen to your body, find a level of exercise that it can tolerate and slowly build on that, while allowing your shin enough time to heal.
I’d advise running on a soft surface such as grass, rather than on roads.
You should also be working on strengthening your glute muscles if you start running a lot.
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