Help! How did I get Shin Splints?

“I started running and got Shin Splints- what now??”

One very common New Year’s resolution is to get in shape by running. While this can be a great new hobby, often people end up with injuries right at the start, discouraging them from pursuing running further. When a new running routine is implemented, initial injuries are usually related to doing too much, too quickly. Shin Splints is no exception. Shin Splints is also known as MTSS (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome) and generally occurs as pain to the inside front of the lower leg during or after running.

Pain to the front of the shin needs to be taken seriously as this pain can also indicate more serious conditions such as Compartment Syndrome or stress fractures to the leg bone known as the tibia. If you are experiencing pain to your shin, it is always advisable to seek medical advice from your podiatrist or orthopedist before continuing with your running routine.

But what IS shin splints??

Shin splints is the stress that is placed on the tibia bone as a result of microtears of the muscle off the bone, inflammation of the sheath around the bone, or just inflammation of the muscle itself. This is the result of inadequate stretching prior to your fitness activity. Not to worry, however, because shin splints is usually fairly easy to treat and does NOT mean you wont be able to run ever again!

Treatment for this condition involves immediately stopping the activity that is causing the pain (running, dancing, etc.), and changing your fitness routine temporarily to an activity that requires less stress on your legs. Examples of less stress activities include swimming, running in water, biking or walking.

Icing the front of your shin and stretching your calf muscles is also extremely important. I have patients do this at least twice daily for 2 weeks before slowly easing back into running. There are plenty of stretching exercises available online and should be simple to do. If the stretch looks like you need to be a contortionist to perform, don’t do it!

Evaluating your shoes is extremely important as well. Often, if you are using “broken in” or older tennis shoes to start running, you are not getting enough support. See our article on Choosing Proper Running Shoes for more information.

A common culprit for causing shin splints is running on a treadmill. When you start to ease back into running, I recommend patients try running outside and on different surfaces to see what is comfortable for them.

Taping your shin when running is another technique used very successfully for some people. Searches for “taping for shin splints” provide good demonstrations on these techniques.

And lastly, easing back into running should be performed as no more than a 10% increase per week. So, if you typically run 10 miles in a day (or week) the first week of running should be no more than 1 mile. The second week, no more than two miles, and so on.

Again, if you are unsure of how to treat this condition in any way, guidance from your podiatrist will make all the difference to your speedy recovery.

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