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Shin splints: Prevention & Treament

Posted Apr 12 2013 8:58am

Unfortunately I am not alone in my ever nagging issues with my legs. I know every runner at some point will become familiar with these aches and question whether they are more than a simple thing requiring minimal intervention. As a coach I am frequently asked about shin splints and it seems something that every runner has dealt with to some extent.

Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome account for nearly 20% of all running related injuries ( Source ). Runners of all levels have been plagued by shin splints and wonder what they did, how long to rest and how to fix them.

What is a shin splint? Pain along or just behind the shinbone (tibia) that occurs during physical activity and result from too much force being placed on your shinbone and connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. If pain is severe it is important to see a medical provider to rule out stress fracture or other injury.

What are risk factors for shin splints?
  • Running on a slanted/tilted surface
  • Running downhill
  • Improper or worn out shoes
  • Running too hard, too fast or too long
  • Flat feet or rigid arches
  • Overpronation
  • Starting new programs of high impact: running, jumping

How can I prevent shin splints?
  • Wear proper shoes: make sure to get fitted at a running store and change shoes as they wear out (every 300-500 miles)
  • Cross train with low impact activities such as swimming or biking
  • Correct biomechanical problems, gait analysis can determine potential problems such as stride length, foot strike, muscle imbalance.
  • Vary running surface
  • Increase intensity and mileage gradually: follow the 10% rule with no more than 10% increase of mileage weekly
  • Add strength training: Calf raises:

How should I treat a shin splint? (This can take weeks to months)
  • Rest: Avoid high impact activity but continue exercise with low impact: swimming, pool running, biking as long as it is pain free.
  • Ice 10 minutes 2 times daily and after activity
  • OTC anti-inflamatory, but be sure to limit the length of time taking these and don't let it maske the pain to engage in activity
  • Compression with calf sleeves or knee socks
  • Determine any risk factors and make changes as able. There are times when a visit to a medical provider is warranted especially with repeated issues or continual/extreme pain.
  • Return to impact activity slowly.

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*As always this is not intended as medical diagnosis, please see your own medical provider

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