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Overcoming Shin Splints

November 8th, 2012

Chances are high that you’ve either had shin splints sometime during your running career or know someone who has. “Shin splints” is an umbrella term for several different ailments affecting the lower leg, including tibial stress fractures and compartment syndrome. In this post, we’re focusing on the most common form of shin pain, medial tibial stress syndrome (or MTSS).

What Is MTSS?
An inflammation of the tendons along the shin, MTSS results in pain along the medial side of the lower leg. The pain is most severe in the morning after waking up, or during the beginning of a run. Pressing around the affected area will also result in increased pain.

How’d I Get It?
A number of factors can lead to the onset of MTSS. Many beginners get shin splints due to the lack of muscular acclimation to the stress of repeated impact on hard surfaces. Advanced runners who increase mileage or intensity too quickly are also at risk. Excessive overpronation can contribute to the development of shin splints, as can tight and inflexible lower leg muscles.

Should I Stop Running?
Generally, it is best to stop running or to decrease mileage while experiencing MTSS. If you do continue running, do so with caution – avoid hills and harder surfaces if possible. Using a shin splint-specific compression sleeve such as the Cho-Pat Shin Splint Compression Sleeve will support the inflamed tendons and may provide relief from pain.

For advanced runners experiencing mild shin pain during the beginning of a season, running limited mileage may help the body to acclimate to the stresses of increased training, though if the problem is persistent it is best to allow the injury to heal.

How Can I Treat It?
For an at-home remedy, you can begin by icing the affected area for 10-15 minutes several times a day. To make icing a bit easier and get the added benefit of compression, you may want a product such as the Runner’s Remedy Cold Compression Shin Wrap or the 110% Double-Life Shin/Calf Sleeves.

MTSS also can be treated by stretching the muscles of the lower leg to keep them loose and flexible. Massage can help as well. You can roll out the muscles of the lower legs with products such as the Trigger Point Performance Foot and Lower Leg Kit.

There are a few exercises you can do to strengthen muscles around the shin. From a sitting position, try tracing the alphabet with your big toe. If you have access to resistance bands, loop one end around a stationary object and the other around your foot, then while sitting, repeatedly dorsiflex your foot against the resistance of the band.

How Can I Prevent It From Happening Again?

  • Keep your training consistent. Avoid sudden spikes in mileage or intensity. If increasing mileage, do so by no more than 10% per week.
  • Keep the muscles of the lower leg loose and limber by incorporating regular stretching or massaging routines.
  • If you overpronate, wear a support or motion control shoe that will supply an adequate amount of stability. Replace shoes as they wear out.
  • Get your gait analyzed. You may be overpronating without realizing it. Running Warehouse offers a free gait analysis service – just send us a video of you running on a treadmill to info@runningwarehouse.com.
  • Avoid overstriding, which places additional strain on the lower leg and increases the likelihood of injury.

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