Running Injury Basics: Shin Splints

woman jogging shin splints
Meredith O’Brien
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Meredith O’Brien

Owner/CEO at FitNicePT
Meredith is an avid runner, Belgian beer lover and Philadelphia sports fan.A personal trainer and running coach for her own FitNicePT, she loves watching people accomplish things they never knew they could and blogs about her own trials and tribulations as FitNiceRunner.
Meredith O’Brien
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Hi everyone!  It’s Meredith from over at FitNiceRunner.  I’m a Crossfit Endurance Coach, USA Track and Field Level I Coach and ACSM Certified Personal Trainer.  A passionate runner, I love helping people reach their fitness goals and am excited to team up with Matt at The Runner Dad to cover basic running injuries.  This week we kick off with shin splints.  An injury most new runners have handled, here’s a little more about them.

What

Shin splints is the common name for the official medical condition known as medial tibial stress syndrome.  It causes pain along the long bone in the front of the lower leg called the tibia and is frequently seen in runners, especially new ones or those increasing mileage.

Cause

Shin splints are caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons and tissues surrounding the tibia.  This inflammation can result from a sudden change in training routines, an increase in intensity or a poor foot strike due to weak hips, over pronation and a lack of core strength.

Symptoms

Symptoms of shin splints include tenderness and soreness along the length of the tibia and inner leg as well as possible swelling of the lower leg.  Sometimes the pain will go away as activity continues but eventually it becomes constant.  Of course, if you’re having serious constant pain, getting an x-ray to rule out a stress fracture is always a good idea.

Treatments

Shin splints are usually treated with rest, ice four times a day for 15-20 minutes and mild anti-inflammatories.  Compression sleeves are a good way to provide additional support and warmth to weaker areas during healing.

Recovery

During the healing process, it’s important to swap out your high impact activity that caused the injury for lower impact activities like swimming, water running and biking.  You’ll also want to spend some time doing range of motion and strength training exercises that will help your body move correctly and prevent shin splints from occurring.  Once you’re healed, slowly rebuild high impact activities back in being sure to give your bones, tissues and muscles time to toughen up.

Do you or have you suffered from shin splints? How did you survive? Share in the comments below!

3 Comments

  1. Dottie (@crazyfitmommy)

    I had really bad shin splints last week, probably from a relatively quick increase in weekly mileage. I just tried to rest a little bit and write the alphabet with my toes as often as possible. It sounds silly but someone showed me that when I was a kid and it seems to strengthen the surrounding muscles in the right way for me to heal faster and not have as much pain in the future.

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  2. Diane

    Listen to advice. That’s what I took away after my shin splints. Advice being don’t try to increase mileage and speed at the same time. I didn’t listen. Then when I had the first aches of shin splints, I received the same advice you gave: rest, ice, cross train. Didn’t want to do that. One day, the shin splints went from ache at the beginning of my run to full on pain. I hobbled home doing the Tim Conway shuffle (if you ever saw the Carol Burnett Show – you’ll know what I’m talking about). Then I listened to someone’s advice and got an x-ray to rule out stress fracture. I was good, no fracture so I invested in some compression sleeves and slowed down and cut back my mileage and it took some time, but they healed.

    My Advice: Listen to those who know what they speak of (if I could insert an arrow pointing up to this article I would do it – if you’re reading this comment – go back and reread the advice).

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  3. Kevin Dietmeyer

    I’ve been a runner for the last five years and I wrestled with shin splints and muscle imbalance for the first two. I fought through three half marathons and a 15 miler in absolute agony! The result following a particular race was a stress fracture along my tibia that ran my ambition for running into the ground for months. At the time [and currently] I was a certified personal trainer carrying credentials with ACSM, NASM and the NFPT. I took the time away from running to devour all of the literature I could find on shin splints and a variety of nagging injuries that are common in the running community; desperate to solve my problem. I knew that the answer had to lie in the hips but what more could I do? I was the typical leg day junkie and Monday just wasn’t the same without the weekly application of squats, dead lifts and lunges. My glutes were strong! What I found in all of my scouring of information on “pre-hab,” self-myofascial release techniques, flexibility training and mobility work was that hip strength did not equate to hip efficiency. I began to implement a few sets of lateral [side] lunges and that “lady’s machine,” properly known as the adduction and abduction machine before my lower body strength work. With the application of light resistance training to activate these dormant hip stabilizing muscles and some anterior tibialis work [i.e. toe raises] I was able to overcome all shin discomfort and I totally eliminated all hip flexor discomfort from the past. In fact I completed the San Fransisco Half Marathon pain-free within three months of my new approach to “pre-hab.” These exercises and a bit of running form improvement turned me into an effortless runner!

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