Shin Splints are one of the most common running injuries. The medical name for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). They are categorised by pain in the lower leg due to an overuse of the muscles, tendons and tissues along the tibia (large frontal bone of lower leg).
Most of the time this pain is due to micro tears in the muscles. Various factors such as choice of footwear, running terrain and over-pronation can contribute to the issue.
Usually beginner runners or runners who increase their workload too quickly tend to be more at risk of developing shin splints due to the sudden stress placed on the muscles.
Shin Splints: Symptoms
Some symptoms of shin splints include:
- Dull ache on the front and/or sides of the shin
- Pain on the shin during exercise
- Pain of the muscles of the lower leg
- Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg
- Swelling of the calf and shin
- Numbness and weakness in the feet
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints can occur when the muscles responsible for lowering your foot slowly at each step as well as maintain the proper arch are overworked. These muscles include the tibialis anterior and the tibialis posterior (muscles on your shin). Increasing your exercise workload too fast or pushing yourself too hard can strain muscles, tendons, bones and joints.
A stress fracture along the shin bone (tibia) is an injury that arises when the muscles of the lower leg are too fatigue to absorb any more shock and therefore, the stress is shifted to the bone. This causes tiny cracks to form on the bone. A lot of the time stress fractures are confused for shin splints. The main difference is that the pain from shin splints tends to get better as the muscles warm up whereas stress fractures begin to feel worse as you run.
Flat Feet and Over Pronation (rolling of feet inwards)
Flat feet can cause shin splints as the arch of the foot can act as a spring which can absorb the shock when you take a step. Someone with flat feet will not have this shock absorber so the shins are most likely going to take the impact every time, and therefore cause overuse damage.
Consider training with lower impact sports like walking or biking. Choose soft surfaces over hard if possible as it will have less of an impact on your shins. Begin any new activities slowly and gradually build up the intensity.
Wearing the right shoes is very important. You want to make sur you have enough support. For runners, shoes should be replaced every 1000km.
How to Treat Shin Splints?
RICE: In order to reduce the inflammation and pain it is recommended to implement the “RICE” rule. This means “Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate”.
It is important to ice your shin for around 10min at a time. To then rest it, you should elevate your leg as well as provide some sort of compression. This can be done using our sports compression calf sleeves or any of our full length compression socks.
Insoles or othotics: Orthotics are very useful in that they control over-pronation and thereby help prevent internal leg rotation, which thus keep a healthy arch.
We recommend using the ErgoPad Weight Flex 2 Insoles to treat flat feet as well as support the longitudinal arch to provide optimal guidance for every step.
ErgoPad Weight Flex 2 - $129.95
Anti-inflammatories: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, or aspirin, will help with pain and swelling. Use them as directed on the label, unless your doctor says otherwise.
How to Prevent Shin Splints?
Once you have treated your shin splints, there are a couple of simple ways you can prevent them from reoccurring.
As well as slowly easing back into running, and wearing the right foot-wear, compression socks and sleeves relieve the pain associated with shin splints and help to prevent them from developing.
Bauerfeind calf compression sleeves limit swelling, keep muscles warm and loose, increase blood flow and help speed up the healing process.
Wearing an optimal level of consistent compression will cause the walls of the arteries to dilate, increasing blood flow. Whilst wearing compression garments, arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery.
This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! Compression will also help to stabilize the muscle and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, all of which will result in less pain and less chance of shin splints.
Sports Calf Compression Sleeve - $89.95
- Stretching and warm up
It’s important to stretch out tight calf muscles. These large muscles at the back of your leg run from your knee to your heel. Stretch each calf muscle separately.
- Soft surface running
Choosing a softer surface such as grass or a synthetic track will prevent your bones, muscles, tendons, and joints from having to absorb so much shock and will reduce the risk of developing shin splints.
- Strengthen muscles (foot arch and hips)
The arch of a human foot stops developing at the age of around 7 to 8 years. Other factors such as lack of activity will create weakness in the muscles of the foot, leg, thigh and torso which in turn will affect your lower limbs and may cause shin splints.
- Strengthening your foot can be a good place to start.
For example, performing calf raises can be affective in strengthening the arch and preventing shin splints from occurring. This can be done while standing and lifting your heels as high as you can. You can use a chair or wall to help support your balance. Hold the upper position for 5 seconds, and then lower back down to the floor. Do 2–3 sets of 15–20 repetitions. A physio or doctor can teach you other exercises for your feet.
- Buy proper shoes
Often times running in a new pair of running shoes that support your arch and provide enough cushioning is enough to give your lower legs the relief they need to avoid further shin splint issues.
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