You upped your training levels, started to push harder, got more serious, everything was fine for a while, until you started to feel pain in your shin. No doubt this pain only got worse over time. Chances are you are suffering from shin splints. Shins splints are a common condition that many people suffer from. They are painful, annoying and if you don’t look after them correctly they only get worse. Finding out how to get rid of shin splints is important, and will ensure that you don’t end up with a stress fracture.
What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints is more of a symptom of certain conditions. The common type of shin splints affect two areas. The correct names for shin splints are medial tibial stress syndrome, or posterior tibialis syndrome and is really common amongst people that do a lot of running and place a lot of load though the shins. The pain that you will feel is like a dull ache in the lower leg area. Some people will feel it whilst exercising, other after they have finished. The fact is that it is pretty hard to avoid getting shin splints if you run a lot, your shin absorbs two to three times your body weight every time you put your foot down when you run. This is a lot of repetitive stress on one area, and it is not surprising that problems arise. It is considered an overuse injury, but with the correct preparation, you can avoid it.
What Are The Causes Of Shin Splints?
Shin splints mostly occur through repetitive stress in some way or another. They tend to be located in either of these two areas depending on the problem that you have.
- If you have pain at the front of the shin, on the big muscle running down the outside of the shin bone, you have a problem with your dorsiflexors.
- If you have pain on the inside of your shin bone, in the muscles running just below it, you have a problem with your posterior tibialis muscle.
The dorsi flexors, which are the muscles that pull the top of the foot upwards towards the shin aren’t functioning correctly. Located at the front of the If you are running, and do not have good control on foot strike, then the dorsi flexors have to work very hard to counter that. When there is a really big eccentric load on these muscles (negative muscle movement) and they are not prepared for this kind of stress, they get tight and inflamed.
A lot of us tend to over pronate when we walk or run, mostly due to flat arches, which means the foot drops flatter than it should, and points out ways on foot strike. The posterior tibial muscle works the most for this, and shin splints can also be known as posterior tibialis syndrome. It run down the back of your tibia, and stops the foot pronating on foot strike. This muscle can get extremely over worked easily and is typically not very strong in most people. Once again a lot of repetitive stress causes over use in the area, and the muscles get tight and inflamed. Not only does it affect the muscle, but the connective tissue surrounding it.
This video explains over pronation perfectly!
This is a great simple explanation of shin splints, talks about other causes and risk factors.
How To Treat Shin Splints
We are often tight and weak in the calf area, the posterior tibialis, and the dorsi flexors, so all this needs to be addressed.
Check out these simple stretches to help you stretch away the pain. If the problem is in your tibilias posterior, these will help directly, if it is in your anterior shin muscles, then they are probabaly way too loose, causing an imbalance and as a consequence you will suffer from tight calves.
Massage is an extremely effective treatment for shin splints. Depending on where you feel the pain, just rub the area, press down and along the muscle. You will feel a lot of pain but also a lot of relief. If you anterior shin muscle are tight, run your thumb up and down there. If you are tight in your posterior tibialis, get your thumb stuck on the inside of your shin bone, try to push under it. This will cause serious pain, but you need it. General calf massage will help shin splints in general. Ice massages are also great, get a plastic cup and fill it with water, freeze it and use it to run down your shins, really helps with the inflammation regardless of your problem. This is really great for sports recovery in general. You may want to understand fascia pain, and you will be able to help this out with some tennis ball therapy. Fascia can cause problems to your shins from as high up as your hip flexor, check out those two posts for some more great self massage tips.
Exercises are important, there is no rehabilitation without getting strong. Doing the right leg workout to help the pain is essential. Check out these exercises.
Anterior Shin Pain (Dorsiflexors)
Tibialis Posterior Exercises
General calf raises are great too, you are probably weak in this area as well.
Ensure that you footwear is not causing you to over pronate. Get orthotics if you need.
Whilst you are working to treat your shin splints, ensure that you keep your fitness up with some low load exercise. Swimming and bike riding are great, and won’t cause much stress on the area. You want to avoid pain as much as possible.