Shin splints are a very common runner’s injury. The pain sensation of shin splints is from micro tears in the muscles and bone of the shin. If left untreated, shin splints can turn into stress fractures and/or compartment syndrome. Both of these are serious issues which is why it is important to listen to your body. It is important to note that shin splints come in two flavors, anterior(front) shin splints and posterior(back) shin splints. The pain pattern is named after the muscles that cause the pain.
Bellow is a picture of the area where you would have pain if you had anterior shin splints.
Bellow is a picture of the area where you would have pain if you had posterior shin splints.
Anterior shin splints are caused by micro tears in the anterior tibialis muscle. Posterior shin splints come from micro tears in the posterior tibialis muscle or flexor digitorum longus (and sometimes the soleus).
Many times shins splints can be resolved simply by stopping your running activity. However, many athletes don’t feel like this is a reasonable option for them. Taking a week to a month off comes at a high cost for an athlete, so shin splints often times become a chronic problem or worse (as mentioned above). So for those of you that can’t take time off or have tried taking time off and shin splints keep haunting you, here are some things to try:
- Stretch your shins. Stretching the tibialis anterior and/or posterior can be very helpful. The best time to stretch these is after you have warmed them up a little by walking or running and after you have finished your walk/run. I would start by stretching 2-3 minutes into my run and then again at the end of the run, and 2-3 times a day even if I haven’t gone on a run.
- Strengthening the anterior tibialis and posterior tibialis.
- Ice!!!! Take an ice cube and run it a long your shin after you have worked out and/or at the end of the day before going to bed. Never ice before you exercise. Don’t ice to the point you give yourself frostbite… seriously, don’t be silly.
- Make sure that you have good shoes. Not all shoes are created equal and there isn’t a one-type-fits-all for shoes. Please keep in mind that just because your best friend, who has run a hundred marathons, tells you that their shoe is the best, doesn’t mean that it is the best shoe for you. Some people really do have wide feet and some have narrow feet and your shoes should reflect this truth. If you want help getting good information about shoes, go see your podiatrist. Other good health care professionals to talk to about your shoes are physical therapists and chiropractors.
- Get your foot adjusted (and maybe your knee). Your muscles and ligaments act as pulleys and your bones are the levers. If you have a joint that is stuck, then your muscles have to work harder to make you move. This can lead to overuse injuries such as shin splints. Thus, it is really important to make sure that all of the joints in your feet are functioning well so they can last a lifetime.