The number one complaint I got from runners when I was coaching cross country was about shin pain. This is in fact one of the top 5 most common injuries among all runners and it is called SHIN SPLINTS. I also have been a victim of this dreaded injury and it’s definitely not fun. Now that the weather is turning warmer, more people will be outside running so I thought it necessary to write a post providing more information on what it is and how to help your shins feel better. (Before I jump into the post however, let me make a disclaimer that this is not intended to diagnose or treat any injury and that not all injuries felt in the shin is shin splints.)
What is Shin Splints? There is not final consensus on what shin splints is exactly but many sport scientist believe that it is either small tear in the muscle around your shin bone, inflammation to the muscle, or combination of both. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
How does it feel? This is subjective since everyone has a different pain tolerance and it depends on the severity. For me, personally, it feels like a burning sensation that doesn’t go away. Typically, the pain feels worse when the foot is flexed like when taking a step. Pain associated with shin splints is generally felt in the front of the leg below the knee and may be hard to pin point exactly where it hurts. Unlike other injuries, the pain may be worse in the morning and is generally felt all the time (even when not running).
How do you get it? Most commonly, shin splints occurs due to increasing mileage too soon. This is why most people will get shin splints when they start a new running regimen or when they start running after taking the winter off (which is true in my case). Also, there is some research that indicates new shoes or old shoes may cause shin splints due to not being broken in enough or being too broken in. New shoes should be purchased every 300-500 miles to help reduce running related injuries and discomfort. I have also heard that running on hard surfaces, such as a paved road, can cause shin splints but I have also heard arguments the refute this statement at the same time- my advice is to use your discretion and run on whatever surface feels good for you.
How to treat it? Ice, ice, and more ice. Icing helps to reduce inflammation, promotes healing, and decreases pain. Also, decrease how much your running or stop running all together if it is severe. When I was coaching, I would have my runners take a week off from practice in order to let the injury heal no matter how severe the pain was. In addition, to help take the edge off, ibuprofen can help mask the pain and also help reduce inflammation.
There are other techniques that can help like taping shins with athletic tape or using kinesio tape. I am personally a fan of kinesio tape (I have been trained in basic application and technique and find it really does help when used on my patients). Kinesio tap can be purchased in stores or online and although many Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainers, or Occupational Therapist use it, it can be used by anyone. For a good video on how to use kinesio tape and some pointers, check out this Youtube video KT Tape Shin Splints
I hope this post helps anyone battling with shin pain and hopefully avoid getting shin splints again. Please leave any comments below and don’t forget to subscribe!