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Runner’s Guide to Shin Splints

by | February 3, 2020

What It Is, How To Prevent It And How To Treat It

Millions of people enjoy running as a form of cardio exercise that helps in keeping their bodies in shape, their heart pumping, and their general health in good condition. All of these benefits, however, are also accompanied by a range of injury risks that should be put into consideration. Shin splints are one of the most common injuries that occur in runners. In this guide, we’re going to focus on shin splints and discuss what this condition is, how you can treat it, and, of course, how it can be prevented in the first place.

What Are Shin Splints

Before we discuss how shin splints can be treated and how they can be prevented in runners, we should first learn what exactly shin splints are. The condition refers to pain in the shinbone, also known as the tibia. In medical terms, shin splints cause inflammation in bone tissue, tendons, and muscles that surround the tibia bone, or the shinbone. Shin splints usually develop after a person has participated in physical exercises, but a runner may experience pain during exercise. In some cases, pain may occur long after they have completed their training session.

Anterior vs. Posterior Shin Splints

Shin splints are generally categorized according to the specific shin muscles affected so there are two main categories in which these injuries can fall – posterior and anterior shin splints.

The more common of the two is a posterior shin splint. This type of shin splint refers to an injury that affects structures around the tibialis posterior muscle as well as the deeper fascia and muscles of the posterior leg. This effects the inner area of the shin bone and the condition is often referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). One recent study showed that MTSS is the most common injury in runners.

Anterior shin splints are less common and refer to an injury or condition that leads to inflammation of the anterior tibialis. While the tibialis posterior muscle runs along the inner area of the shin bone, the tibialis anterior muscle is found on the opposite side. This muscle is found at the front region of the shin bone. In addition to covering the front area of the shin, part of this particular muscle is also found on the outer surface area of the shin bone. The development of an anterior shin splint will usually lead to pain symptoms that develop at the front of the leg, as well as the sides – particularly in the area where the shin bone is located. A posterior shin splint will most often cause these pain symptoms at the back of the leg.

Shin Splints in Runners – Causes & Risk Factors

Shin splints are caused by overworked and inflamed bone tissue and muscles in your leg. The condition usually occurs when repetitive physical activity is conducted in such a way that the bone tissue and muscles in your leg are constantly overworked. Certain factors can also put a person at a higher risk of developing shin splints. Furthermore, women are also at a higher risk. Having an imbalance in your muscle development is also a risk factor that significantly increases your risk of developing shin splints.

The following factors can also contribute to shin splints:

  • Scheduling your running sessions too soon after one another – you need to allow your muscles some time to recover and heal after every run.
  • Running on certain surfaces like pavements that are hard, or on surfaces that are not stable.
  • Not warming up properly before you start running and not properly stretching after you have completed your training.
  • Running shoes that are worn out – your feet need special support while you are running, and when your shoes are worn out, the support will no longer be sufficient.
  • Running on surfaces that add excess pressure on your shinbone, such as surfaces that are not entirely straight (downhill or uphill).

How Are Shin Splints Treated?

There are numerous methods that can be utilized to treat shin splints. The severity of a person’s condition should always be considered when determining the most appropriate treatment methods. In some cases, placing ice on the area that is swollen and painful, and resting the body for a couple of days is enough to allow the injured tissue to heal. In other cases, anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may be needed to reduce the inflammation in the affected area and to help the affected individual cope with the pain that the condition is causing.

A neoprene sleeve can also be used for support and some runners also find that using orthotic inserts in their running shoes help to reduce the strain that is being placed on their shinbone during their running sessions and reduces the symptoms when they do develop shin splints.

It is important to get checked out if you have persistent pain because there are several conditions that may need to be ruled out, including chronic exertional compartment syndrome and tendinopathies. It is important to realize that, should shin splints not be treated appropriately in a timely matter, the condition can become more severe and lead to a stress fracture. In such a case, different treatment options will be necessary, and the affected individual might have to undergo surgery to correct the problem should the stress fracture be severe enough. If this happens, running would not be an option for a period ranging from several weeks to months, while the involved area recovers.

Conservative Treatments for Shin Splints?

While educating yourself about the most effective treatment options for shin splints are important, it is also important to know that this type of running injury can be prevented in many cases. Thus, it is also vital to consider preventative measures that can be taken to reduce your risk of obtaining such an injury – prevention of shin splints means you will not have to take any time off from your running to recover! One of the most effective ways to prevent shin splints is to increase your speed, frequency, and distance gradually. Immediately starting with a long-distance and at a fast speed can put you at a much higher risk of obtaining an injury like shin splints. Wearing appropriate gear, such as compression sleeves and compression socks, can also be very beneficial.

Kinesio taping can be extremely effective at reducing pain associated with shin splints. Graston Technique can also be helpful at managing pain associated with shin splints. Combining the two techniques often allows a runner to continue training without having to alter their training schedule.

Certain corrective exercises can also significantly reduce your risk of obtaining this type of injury. Using appropriate corrective exercises can lead to proper function in the muscles and subsequent reduction in muscle soreness after you have completed a running session.

Conclusion

If you don’t want to take yourself out of the race, then you need to ensure you educate yourself about shin splints, how they develop, and what you can do about them. Most importantly, it is vital that you understand the different preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of obtaining such an injury and to ensure you can continue running without any interference.

Article Featured in Toledo Roadrunners Club Footprints – Volume 46, Issue 2 (February 2020)

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DR. ROYER

Dr. Bryan D. Royer has been practicing chiropractic medicine in the Toledo area since 2005. He graduated summa cum laude as the class salutatorian from the National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in 2004. Dr. Royer’s earned a Bachelor of Science with a major in biology from the University of Dayton in 1999 and another Bachelor of Science with a major in human biology in 2002 from NUHS. He is the only Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist practicing in the Toledo area and is also a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician® (CCSP®). Dr. Royer is the only healthcare provider in the Toledo Area to be certified in Graston Technique® and he is also a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP). He is a member of the American Chiropractic Association, the Ohio State Chiropractic Association, the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation, the ACA Council on Neurology and the Kinesio Taping Association. He currently serves as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Northwest Ohio Chiropractic Association and has done so since 2010.

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