Shin Splints Made Easy

23rd October 2019
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Do your Shins hurt?

Shin splints is described as pain felt along the front of your lower leg. It is a common pain with runners and impact athletes, particularly beginners who do not build their training volume and intensity gradually enough, or those who abruptly change their training plan, adding too much mileage or switching from flat or soft training surfaces to hilly or hard surfaces. It is an overuse injury, where the body is unable to withstand a repetitive mechanical loading. 

Shin splints is not the only cause of pain in the shin area!

Sometimes pain on the shin can mean something else. Two other conditions are sometimes mistakenly confused with shin splints;

  • Compartment syndrome: this is a condition in which there is an increase of the pressure inside the muscle compartment in the leg producing pain and lack of oxygen locally. Common early symptoms are tightness, swelling and pain when stretching the muscle. This can get worse producing tingling, change in the colour and temperature of the skin (cold and pale) or difficulty moving the affected body part.
  • Stress fracture: this is when there are small cracks in the tibia (shin bone), and could be caused by repeated stress on the bone. Typically the pain is well localised and can swell or feel like burning pain upon loading and afterwards too! Eventually, the pain can become persistent with minimal activity.

Getting an accurate diagnosis of your shin pain is very important. Missing one of the more serious injuries such as compartment syndrome or stress fractures can be dangerous and cause a much longer treatment journey!

These are the signs and symptoms that mean you must see your physiotherapist or osteopath:

  • the pain isn’t getting any better or is getting worse, even though you’ve stopped exercising and you’re resting your leg;
  • you have pain when you’re resting without an obvious cause;
  • your muscle feels very tight and hard, which could be a sign of compartment syndrome;
  • you have swelling/discolouring over your shin bone.

What can you do to prevent shin pain?

The key words for Shin splints are too much, too soon. So the main way to prevent it is having a look at your training programme and following some simple advice:

  • All changes and progression should be gradually built in volume and pace. An increase no more than 10 percent weekly is recommended.
  • Have enough time to rest and recover between training sessions.
  • Double check your shoes work for you. Cushion and support can vary in relation to your technique and the shape of your foot. So it might be a good idea to get your running shoes fitted at a specialist running shop.
  • More than any other shoes trainers lose their ability to absorb shock after a while, so it is important to replace them when it is necessary. It is recommended to replace shoes after 300 to 700 miles.
  • Train and exercise on grass or matting sometimes and not always on hard surfaces.
  • Warm up before exercising.
  • Do some stretching exercises for calves around exercise;
  • Poor conditioning of the lower extremity can be a factor. It is important to include in your plan a strengthening routine to achieve good pelvic stability and power in core the muscles, glutes, quadriceps, hamstring and calves at least.

If the pain is stopping you from what you love here in Function360 our experienced practitioners can help you and show you the best way to get back to what you love quickly but safely, and forever!

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