Getting injured as a fitness or running enthusiast sucks. Even if you just recently sustained injuries or maybe coddling an annoying injury for a while now, it can be so frustrating and demoralizing when you find it so difficult to run as much as you wanted to. Shin splints are one of the commonest plights of new and experienced runners and are sometimes difficult to deal with.
Are you a new or experienced athlete trying to stay off injury and willing to know how to run with shin splints? You have come to the right place. This article will open your eyes to the cause, treatment, and the preventive measures to take for the effective management of shin splints.
I also have other tips in case you have a knee pain while running
Shin splints- what does it mean?
Shin splint also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is the term used to describe a painful inflammation of the muscles in the shins (lower leg, below the knee region). It can occur in the inward part of the leg (medial shin splint) or the outward part of the leg (anterior shin splint). Shin pains are one of the most common injuries dreaded by most runners, football players, dancers, tennis players, and basketball players.
Shin splints – The cause
Engaging in physical activities is beneficial to the body, but the pain and soreness that often accompany increased physical exercises are something more we bargained for. The chances are that you’ll develop pain and shin splints if you work your leg muscles more than what they are used to.
You are receiving a first class ticket to shin splints when you exert too much force and pressure on your shin bone, including the tissues and the muscle surrounding the bone. This repeated stress and pounding on the shin bones and muscle increases the pressure of the muscle against the bone which leads to inflammation and pain.
The repeated stress on the bone could also lead to cracks or microscopic fracture in the leg bone. These small cracks usually go away on its own if the body is allowed to rest in order to repair itself. However, most running enthusiasts do not give their body enough time to recover before their next run. Lack of adequate rest can make these tiny cracks to further develop into stress fracture or a complete fracture.
Shin splints are not only caused by microtears in the leg bones and muscles but can also be aided by other factors like running with worn shoes, inadequate stretching, overpronation, overstriding, and poor function of the lumbar spine.
Who is at the risk of getting shin splints?
Anyone involved in physical activities is at risk for shin splints. However, various exercises and physical body activities can increase your risk of getting shin splints. Some of these physical attributes include:
- Improper running techniques
- Overpronation or flat feet syndrome (or other forms of anatomical abnormalities)
- Poor flexibility· Weakness in the buttocks or thigh muscle
- Running with worn-out shoes
- Dramatic increase in your running or training intensity
- Running down the hill
- Running on an uneven surface or slanted trail
- Running on concrete surfaces or other hard surfaces.
- Treatments and management of shin splints
Shin pain can be so intense that you may need to stop running; your ability to walk properly might also be affected. It is, therefore, important to see a doctor who may prescribe x-rays and imaging scans to determine if you have a bone fracture or suffering from a different ailment entirely.
To treat shin splints, you will have to take a break from some of your physical exercises and allow your legs to rest. Normally, the pain should disappear in a few hours or within a few days after resting and limiting your physical activities. Normally, a downtime period of about two weeks is recommended for a complete recovery. During this recovery period, you can perform some mild physical exercises, especially those that won’t cause further injury to your legs like swimming or biking. Your physician may also direct you to:
- Place ice packs around your legs to reduce the swelling (do this for at least 20 minutes every 3 – 4 hours for 2 – 4 days or until the pain disappears.
- Take a painkiller or anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen, naproxen, Ibuprofen, etc.
(These drugs should be your last resort and should occasionally be used because of their side effects)
- Keep your legs in an elevated position (above your heart level)
- Wear elastic bandages on the affected leg
- Massage your legs using a foam roller
These are home remedies for the treatment of shin splints. However, if you are experiencing severe pain in your shin or if the pain is taking several weeks or months to heal, you may be required to go for a surgery known as Fasciotomy.
How to avoid or run with shin splints
Athletes and runners who have experienced the pain that comes along with shin injury will understand how annoying the management of this injury can be. But the good news is that it can be prevented by taking the right measures. Some of these preventive measures include:
- Taking time to select the right running shoes. Your running shoe should not only fit your leg but also provide enough support and padding to stop you from over-pronating.
- Warming up properly before running· Increase your speed and mileage gradually
- When switching from a soft running trail to a hard one, be careful not to overdo it. Reduce the number of miles you run on hard surfaces until your leg muscle are adapted to it.
Build strength in your calf muscles with toe or other strengthening exercises. Walk on your heels for about 20 – 40 seconds and then walk normally for about 20 – 40 seconds, and repeat this exercise 4 – 5 times. You can also draw an alphabet on the floor with your toes while maintaining a sitting position. Perform this exercise with each leg. These strengthening exercises will not only aid your recovery but will also help to prevent shin splints.
Stop running the moment you feel pain in your shin, and have your leg examined to determine if you have a shin splint or not· If you must run, make sure you wrap your legs properly with a bandage before you do so. Continue doing this until the pain finally disappears.
Avoid running on hard, rough, slanted or hilly trails until your shin completely heals, then introduce them slowly to prevent a relapse
Stretch your legs properly and regularly (especially your Achilles, hip, and calves)
Although shin pain can be difficult to deal with, ignoring the pains without giving adequate attention and care to the legs could result in a much worse condition. Always remember that there is no magic bullet to the treatment of shin splints, so stop pushing it too hard. You have to patiently and consistently practice this treatment, and preventive measures and your shin splint would soon be forgotten. It is, however, important to seek medical assistance or visit a physiotherapist if you’re experiencing a sharp or severe shin pain, or if the pain is taking more than a month to heal.