Problem Solving Shin Splints

Shin splints have been known to sideline an athlete for weeks, in some cases months.  Whether you’re a runner, sprinter, or even a fast walker, you or someone you know has suffered the pain of shin splints. Most of the time, the pain comes on when you’re exercising or quickly after.  If left untreated, this can turn into chronic pain and possible numbness in the lower leg.

Why Do Shin Splints Happen?

Shin splints, somewhat of a general term referring to medial tibial stress pain, occur due to overuse and overloading of the leg while sprinting, running, or walking.  This can irritate the lining of your shin, called your periosteum, an area that has a high concentration of pain fibers.  This is where the pain is coming from when you have shin splints.   There are a few common reasons this can happen:

Biomechanics While Running/Walking

Common faulty biomechanics include over-supination (too much weight on the outside of the foot), over-pronation (too much weight on the big toe), and over-striding (long stride while running).  Analyzing your movement will help reveal which of these factors is playing the largest role in your diagnosis and treatment.

Shoes

The importance of a good running shoe cannot be overstated, especially for you flat footers out there.  Flat feet need more support and would be best to avoid a minimalist type of shoe.  Also, if you have flat feet, you generally wear through your shoes quicker and require replacements in a shorter timeframe.  Be sure to keep an eye on this.

Increased Intensity

When you pick up the intensity, your risk of injury rises.     This can include increasing your speed or adding in more hills and unstable surfaces to your workout.  Your best bet is to do this slowly.  Don’t go from one mile today and ten tomorrow.  Pick a pace you are properly able to recover from and build on top of that.

Tight Muscles and Joints

When you are running with tight calves or other muscles, they simply do not function as well as supple, properly activated muscles.  Ensure you are properly warmed up and be sure you are getting checked for muscle imbalances before increasing training load.  These are crucial to a healthy run.  We often see a muscle tight on one side of the joint (for example the tibialis anterior muscle in the shin) and another muscle weak on the other side (for example the soleus or gastrocnemius, calf muscles, on the other side).

Treatment

When treating shin splints, we consider all the above factors to help get you back to pounding the pavement, or trail if you prefer.  We will analyze your gait, check you for muscle imbalances, and educate  you on movements and exercises to help with the pain and correct the dysfunctions. We have a track record of helping patients get back to pain-free running and would be happy to help you do the same. Contact us today for more information on pain-free running.