In the running community we have all heard of shin splints. This is the generic term for a condition (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome) that gives pain along the shin. Like the Achilles or plantar fascia, shin splints is one of the most annoying injuries to pick up and one I’ve suffered from in the past. Why is this? Because you can most likely keep running with it for longer than you should!!
Typically, it is a bit sore starting out on a run but eases after a few K’s, and it may be sore when you stop. The more you run the longer the pain lasts, until it is sore throughout the whole run and even after your run has finished. The pain is usually hard to pinpoint and seems to travel down the shin bone.
Most worryingly, this condition is along a spectrum of bone stress injuries, culminating in a stress fracture. It’s believed the force/load applied to the bone while running is exceeds the bones ability to withstand it. This means the bone can’t remodel(fix itself) adequately. With increased load(more running), the development of a stress fracture becomes more likely.
A stress fracture can de differentiated from shin splints based on someone’s history, gender, training status, along with the location of pain. A stress fracture is much more focal. The pain can be singled out at a particular point. It doesn’t like impact! Even walking can become a problem.
What’s to be done with your Shin Splints?
In both cases, there is a need to reduce the load (time on feet) to an acceptable level. A plan needs to be put in place to address the underlying causes of the injury. This would involve building up the load tolerance of the bone through weightbearing and non-weightbearing exercises. The more you progress, the more you need to load the bone to stimulate healing and adaption.
Prevention is better than cure!
Runners tend to strength train everywhere but the lower limb(knees down). Therefore, we increase our chances of injury in this area. Exercises that I incorporate into my S&C plan are the following:
- Straight leg heel raises (gastrocnemius)
- Bent knee heel raises (soleus)
- Step ups(glute max)
- Side lying hip abduction (glute Medius)
Of note, Vitamin D is also beneficial for bone health.