July 20, 2024

Can Preventing and Treating Shin Splints Help with Running?

5 min read

Shin splints are a common shin injury that causes shin pain and discomfort on the front or inside of the lower leg. This article guides athletes on recognizing the symptoms, understanding common causes, and learning evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies for shin splints.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints refer to pain felt along the inner edge of the shin bone or lower leg. They are often caused by irritation and inflammation where the muscle attaches to the bone. The repetitive stress on the leg muscles and connections can result in small tears and strain, causing aching shin splints and pain.

If ignored, the condition can worsen and cause more severe stress fractures in the tibia or fibula leg bones. Running, jumping, and high-impact sports are common culprits that can lead to shin splints.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

Common symptoms of shin splints include:

  • Dull, aching pain in the front or inside of the shin or lower leg
  • Pain that starts slowly during activity and often continues after
  • Pain that initially goes away with rest then returns the next day
  • Pain that worsens without rest
  • Swelling or tenderness along the shin bone
  • Leg cramps or weakness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially pain that continues for more than a few days, consult a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor for diagnosis and rehabilitation recommendations.

Causes and Risk Factors for Shin Splints

Shin splints are often the result of repetitive, weight-bearing activity. The repeated stress irritates the muscles, tendons, bone tissue, and blood vessels.

Common contributing factors and causes include:

  • Running sports – especially on hard or uneven terrain
  • Intense training with inadequate rest or stretching
  • Worn-out or ill-fitting shoes that don’t provide proper support
  • Muscle imbalances or weakness in the legs or core
  • Overpronation in the feet
  • Runners using improper form, such as heel striking
  • Carrying excess weight or obesity

Those with a previous leg or foot injury are also at a higher risk of developing shin splints when returning to activity levels too quickly.

Proven Tips to Prevent Shin Splints

The best “cure” for shin splints is preventing their onset in the first place. Here are evidence-backed prevention strategies to keep shins pain-free:

Choose Proper Running Shoes

Invest in running shoes that fit your feet perfectly and match your pronation needs. Replace shoes every 300-500 miles as they lose their supportive qualities over time.

If overpronation is the cause, stability shoes with good arch support and motion control can help. Seek advice from a specialty running shoe store to determine the right fit.

Vary Terrain and Do Cross Training

When possible, avoid exercising only on hard or uneven ground. Vary running routes or incorporate cross-training, like swimming, cycling, or stair climbing. These low-impact exercises allow you to maintain cardiovascular fitness while reducing pressure on the shin muscles and bones.

Build Lower Limb Strength

Do dedicated exercises to build strength in the lower body and core. Single leg squats, calf raises, and proper stretching and foam rolling will improve balance, flexibility, and resilience in leg muscles.

Aim to strengthen all the major muscles/tendons impacted by running and jumping, including the hips, hamstrings, quads, calves and feet.

Resume Activity Slowly After a Break

If taking an exercise break from shin splint pain or another injury, ease back into training slowly. Reduce mileage, pace, and hill work at first while rebuilding conditioning. Give soft tissues adequate time to adapt and avoid re-injury.

Get Custom Orthotics

Custom shoe inserts designed for your foot type can provide stability, support the arch, and promote proper foot alignment. Orthotics help prevent overpronation and relieve stress on lower limbs that lead to shin splints.

How to Treat and Recover from Shin Splints

Along with preventive measures, swift action is key to overcoming shin splints. Follow these rehab and at-home care tips:

Rest and Ice Immediately

As soon as the pain arises, stop the aggravating activity and begin a comprehensive R.I.C.E. routine – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. This includes:

  • Ceasing sports, training, and high-impact workouts
  • Applying ice packs for 15-20 minutes
  • Tight compression sleeves for the calf/shin
  • Propping legs up above heart level

Seek Professional Leg and Foot Assessment

Schedule an exam with a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist. They can properly diagnose shin splints, rule out stress fractures, assess biomechanics, and pinpoint muscle weaknesses. Based on the findings, personalized strengthening programs and orthotic inserts may be prescribed.

Stretch and Self-Massage

Gently stretch the calves, shins, hamstrings, quads, hips, and feet. Use a foam roller or massage stick along the tibia bone, calves, and surrounding musculature. This stimulates blood flow, aids recovery, and prevents adhesion and stiffness.

Return to Activity Slowly

Once pain-free, ease back into training. Reduce distances, speeds, jumps, or weights initially. Cross-train and build mileage slowly, giving soft tissues ample time to adapt without re-injury. Listen to your body and cease activity if pain reoccurs.

With prompt, appropriate rest and reconditioning, full recovery is likely in 4-6 weeks. But if pain persists beyond 2 months, seek imaging tests to confirm no underlying fractures.

I hope this comprehensive guide supports athletes and active people in understanding, preventing and overcoming troublesome shin splints. By applying these evidence-backed prevention and rehabilitation strategies, you can get back on track to pain-free fitness pursuits.

If shin splints are holding you back, the licensed therapists at Pursuit Therapy specialize in lower limb biomechanical assessments, corrective exercises, and customized recovery programs. Schedule a shin splint evaluation today and start addressing the root causes – whether anatomical misalignments, weaknesses, or poor conditioning. Our goal is to help you return to dynamic fitness safely and efficiently.

shin splints https://pursuittherapy.com/

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