There are very few people in the world of running who have escaped the pain in the lower leg that is shin splints.Shin Splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, is a sharp pain on the inside of the leg that comes on either before, during or after running. Pain usually decreases with rest, but as we all know, runners do not like to hear the word rest.
But I have been working so hard to get faster! What do I do now!?
Shin Splints is most often caused by an increase in training, especially if you have started or increased the amount of speed work, plyometrics (drills or quick jumping movements), or up hill running.
Because of the cause, this injury is classified as a ”load injury”. This means that your body is not used to the high load and stress created by speed work, hills or drills, creating swelling and pain at the inside of the leg.
Oh No! I have a race in a few weeks and I just HAVE to get better!
Don’t stress, you can still keep running! For now you will have to nix the speed work, hills and plyometrics. Go back to training on more level surfaces, start cross training, especially pool running, since it is the most sport specific to decrease the load on the body!
Get in the ice bath!
Sorry folks, I know it’s cold but spending 5 minutes with your shins in a bucket of cold water with a tray of ice cubes thrown in will decrease pain and swelling and get you back to your pre-injury running much quicker! Other essentials are stretching the calf and hamstrings, and using a foam roller on the inside of the shins.
Get Stronger= Get Better!
To speed healing and prevent this from happening again, start doing 1 legged step downs over a small step, toe raises (lifting the top of the foot towards your shins then slowly lowering), and towel pulls (with your foot on the floor and your heel on the ground, use your toes to pull a hand towel from the outside to the inside of your foot.
Okay I tried that stuff but I still have pain!
If the pain doesn’t go away you should go see a health care professional such as a physiotherapist for other treatment options include ultrasound or acupuncture. You should also make sure you aren’t suffering from something more serious like stress fracture or compartment syndrome.
About the Author: Karen Gilbert is a physiotherapist at CBI Health Group in London, Ontario and a competitive distance runner. Karen enjoys bringing together her love of running with her love of treating patients.