As runners, we’ve all encountered the demobilizing pain of shin splints. While the medical condition known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is most common in newer runners, it can strike more experienced athletes too — especially as they take strides to advance distance or intensity. BMI and bone density also factor into the frequency and intensity of shin splints.
Let’s look at the causes of shin splints and what we can do to treat, or even avoid, being painfully sidelined.
What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints manifest as searing pain along the shins. There are two types of shin splints: Medial and Anterior. Medial shin splints are located on the front of the shin, along the tibia (shin bone) and are generally caused by the repeated shock as your feet impact the running surface. It is especially pronounced if the running surface is uneven, hard or sloping. Anterior shin splints occur due to uneven development between the muscles on the front and back of the lower leg.
How to Treat Shin Splints
When you experience shin splints, it is important to stop exercising immediately. Pushing through the pain can lead to real damage. If left untreated, shin splints can develop into stress factures of the tibia, which would keep you from running for six weeks or so!
These remedies will help relieve the pain and swelling associated with Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome:
- Ice the area to reduce inflammation.
- Switch to other exercise methods such as swimming or cycling for a few days.
- Gently stretch your Achilles or calf muscles.
- If pain is severe, talk to your doctor.
Tips to Help Prevent Shin Splints
The old saying holds true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Employ these methods to help reduce the likelihood of experiencing MTSS:
- Eat more dairy to increase calcium and vitamin D (this can also help bone density).
- Switch to shoes with more arch support and impact cushioning.
- Stretch before each run.
- Take shorter strides when running.
- Tape or wrap your lower leg from just above the ankle to just below the knee.
- Avoid increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent.
- Run on softer surfaces.
- Build hip and core strength to help improve the mechanics of running.
Shin splints affect us all, but I hope these tips help keep you up and running!
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