It’s coming to that time of year again: when all of us sun-starved running fanatics are promised the beginning of those North West summer rays. Whether or not they arrive we are probably approaching the time of year when we start considering strapping on our trainers and dashing out for the first run after a very long break. Especially with the particularly long and cold winter that we’ve had this year!
Unfortunately, those plans of rebuilding that summer-fit beach-body are often cut short by dreaded ‘shin splints’. Today’s article is going to focus on what shin splints are, how to avoid getting them and what to do if you are already showing signs of shin splints. Shin splints is a general term used to describe shin pain, but is most commonly is used to describe 3 different medical conditions. This is a condition which is estimated to affected 5- 35% of runners.
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome – this is by far the most common cause of shin splints and is the one most often described as shin splints by health professionals. It is an overuse/ repetitive stress injury caused by repetitive pulling of the tibialis anterior muscle (foot lifting muscle) on the big shin bone (the tibia). This starts to pull and irritate the front part of the bone. Pain is worse at the beginning of exercise and eases with rest.
Stress Fracture – discomfort is usually felt quite specifically 2-3 inches above the ankle on the inside. Caused by muscle fatigue leading to increased repetitive stress on the tibia and the bone being loaded by greater force. Multiple repetitive events lead to a stress fracture rather than a single traumatic incident.
Chronic Compartment Syndrome – Muscles in the leg lie within compartments of connective tissue. Internal pressure is increased in this compartment by exercise, usually due to swelling, fluid and/or muscle bulging. This is usually relieved by stopping exercise. Due to the artery and nerve vessels that also run through the compartment this condition can also cause numbness and reduced blood flow to the lower leg, as these structure become trapped or compromised.
So what are the causes of shin splints?
‘Too much too soon’ is the most likely culprit this time of year. Don’t forget that when you’re going through periods of not running, you are deconditioning. Successful training programs don’t pick up from where you left off, but gradually increase intensity and reduce the risk of injury.
Other avoidable risk factors include running on hard ground, try softer surfaces instead, and uneven surfaces. Weak core and pelvic floor muscles, train these independently to your running to keep them strong. Make sure that you have running shoes with enough shock absorption and cushioning to absorb some of the impact of footfall.
You should change your running shoes every 250 – 500 miles as shoes tend to lose 40% of their shock absorption capacity at this point. Vitamin C & D supplementation may also help strengthen the tibia, however the research is disputed.
What can I do if I’ve got shin splints?
First of all you should rest and stop running, there is a risk of aggravating the condition should you try and run through the pain.
At Harding Chiropractic Clinic we recommend speaking to one of our chiropractors should you think you may have shin splints for an appropriate, musculoskeletal assessment and diagnosis.
Matthew Glancy M Chiro