We are fast approaching the Marathon season, a time when we commonly see a lot of runners in the clinic suffering with shin splints.
Shin splints is characterised by diffuse pain at the inner side of the lower shin bone/Tibia. Often people can run through the initial pain but it frequently becomes very painful, swollen and tender afterwards. The periosteal sheath lining the tibia becomes inflamed due to friction with the tibialias anterior muscle.
Ignoring the symptoms can lead to the development of stress fractures– characterized by more localized, intense pain in the lower leg and necessitating a long time out to heal.
Cause – Shin Splints are often the result of too much too soon– increasing mileage too quickly or just doing too much too early if you are a beginner or restarting after a break.
Often shin splints is seen in people who run primarily on hard surfaces, those who are heavy on their feet or those who are overweight.
What to do – Firstly, follow the advise for acute injury: remember acronym- POLICE
Protect- Stop running/ reduce your mileage, avoid hills and road running- cycle or swim to maintain fitness. Taping to off-load the area can help
Ice – The problem area is superficial so an intermittent icing regime- 10mins on/ off several times a day is best.
Compression – compression socks / tubigrip can help.
Secondly, over- pronation, the excessive inward rolling of the foot, is commonly seen in people with shin splints so ensuring you are in the right running shoe is important.
Addressing problems of poor flexibility – (often very tight calf muscles), stability (often weak muscles around the pelvic area) and alignment is very important to ensure recovery and prevent reoccurrence.