Shin splints refers to pain, soreness and tenderness in your lower leg along the shinbone. Symptoms can also include minor swelling as well. Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is caused by stress on the shinbone, which causes you to feel pain during physical activity, but in more serious cases, the pain is constant throughout the day. Shin splints can occur on the inside of your leg (medial shin splints) or on the outside of your leg (anterior shin splints).
You may be at risk of shin splints if:
- - You barely stretch or don't at all
- - Run on uneven surfaces
- - Have flat feet or high arches
- - You are new to running or are running long distances
- - You start exercising more frequently and/or intensely
- - Wearing worn out shoes or shoes that lack support
- - Have had shin splints in the past
Shin splints is very common among runners (especially beginners) and develops when runners switch up their routine, or are running too far, especially on uneven surfaces. Usually, your most dominant leg is affected. This pain can feel so severe that it will keep you from running or working out. If you are a new runner, make sure you don't push yourself! You want to increase the distance you are running gradually to avoid injuries like this.
"Pounding the pavement" quite literally can cause shin splints. Running downhill puts a lot of stress on the leg and can cause pain and swelling. Beware of running on uneven surfaces. Shin splint symptoms can come on gradually, so pay attention to what your body is telling you so you know the difference between fatigue and an injury.
It is extremely important to stretch. Also, make sure you are wearing comfortable, supportive shoes. If you already are wearing good running shoes, try getting shoe inserts for additional comfort and protection. You can also wear compression socks or sleeves to protect yourself from shin splints. Compression increases blood flow and helps to reduce swelling, pain and fatigue.
Sigvaris Compression Calf Sleeves help to prevent and reduce the pain caused by shin splints. These are great if you already have a comfortable pair of ankle socks that you swear by - you can still wear them with these sleeves.
If shin splints go untreated, the pain will get worse and could result in a stress fracture. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to relieve the pain and feel better, fast. The most important thing you can do is rest. Even if the pain isn't stopping you from running or exercising, it's important to take a break and let it heal. It's definitely worth missing a couple days instead of a couple months if your injury gets worse!
A great tip for instant relief is to put ice on your shins to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Try icing your legs between 15-30 minutes every three to four hours for a couple days or until the pain subsides. If you are in a lot of pain, try an over-the-counter pain reliever.
You can do exercises to strengthen, prevent and recover from shin splints. One exercise is to trace the alphabet on the floor using your toes to strengthen and stretch out your calf and shin muscles. Do this with both of your legs four times in a row about three times a day. This exercise is great for recovering and prevention. To strengthen your shin muscles, try doing toe raises (2-3 sets of 10 to 20 reps). If you're looking to strengthen all of your lower leg muscles, do calf raises.
You can also wear compression socks or calf sleeves to speed up recovery, reduce swelling and fatigue and provide relief for aching legs. Therafirm Athletic Recovery Compression Socks are great to wear to recover after a long run and from injury too. These socks are designed specifically for men and women to provide the relief you need when training.
If you haven't already, invest in a foam roller to "roll" out kinks and break up muscle adhesions or knots. This also helps to increase blood flow. If you have had a stress fracture which caused your shin splints, it is advised that you do not use a foam roller. Check out this video for tips!
Once you are feeling better, remember to gradually lean back into your workout. Slow and steady wins the race!
Still have questions about shin splints? Comment below to get answers.