Do I Have Shin Splints?
The symptom of exercise related injuries known as shin splints is not its own condition. Shin splints arise due to activation of weakened muscles or pressure from repeated impact. They account for at least 13% of all running injuries.
Causes of Shin Splints
Shin splints occur as a result of:
- Overworked muscles that have become irritated or swollen
- Underused stabilizing muscles in the legs, hips, abdominal region, or chest
- Overpronation or supination
- Microfractures in the shin or lower leg bones
They happen most often when an established workout routine rapidly intensifies. Pain can also develop when there are rapid shifts in the texture of the workout surface. For example, if a runner switches between a grassy and paved surface several times in one run, the leg muscles and tendons may have trouble adjusting, causing shin splints.
When the foot rolls inward while landing, the movement is called overpronation. A normal pronation helps the foot absorb shock, but when it rolls too far inward, shock cannot travel efficiently through the foot and leg.
When the foot absorbs most of the impact from a step by landing flat, the movement is called supination. If the leg cannot distribute the energy from impact evenly, muscles and bones become prone to damage.
Symptoms of Shin Splints
Shin splints are actually a symptom of much more general issues, but the pain and stiffness that come with them are recognizable.
Dull, aching pain
A consistent throbbing but mild pain may pulse through the shin area and even into the back of the leg. When the foot absorbs impact, a pain that feels like small splinters in the shin bone may temporarily intensify.
Increased blood flow in the connecting muscles around the shin causes inflammation. The inflammation creates a sensation of reduced flexibility that lasts until the body can repair the microabrasions in the leg.
Treatment for Shin Splints
Shin splints are usually treated naturally as the body strengthens weak stabilizer muscles and repairs broken tissue and bone.
The process can be sped up, however, with the help of custom-made orthotics that assist the body when trying to compensate for overpronation or supination. They also provide cushion that reduces pain temporarily.
For pain relief and to speed healing, try the following:
- Rest and recuperate
- Take anti-inflammatory medicine
- Use an ice pack on the affected area
- Perform light stretches and exercises
- Work with a physical therapist
Preventing Shin Splints
Strengthening stabilizer muscles and getting your body used to high impact exercise are two of the most effective ways to prevent shin splints. Try any of these tips to assist in prevention:
- Wear properly fitted and padded shoes for your running style
- Do a warm up before starting your workout
- Stretch your legs before and after exercise
- Pause or stop your exercise as soon as you feel pain
- Improve and maintain flexibility and mobility in your core and legs
The strength you build over time will help you prevent a multitude of injuries that can lead to shin splints. Ramp up exercise routines slowly and use pain as a sign that you should adjust your exercises to match your physical ability to perform them.